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Love In Color

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Love In Color

by Artemis

http://www.livejournal.com/users/artemisraine


Rating: R
Pairing: Clark/Lex
Disclaimers: I don't own the pretty boys or their friends in the Smallville universe. Neither money nor profits were made in the creation or posting of this story. Spoilers: Season 1; up to "Fever" of Season 2. It's AU from there: No Helen marriage, No evil Lionel, no Red K summer, and no Dr. Swann. Summary: Lex grants Clark a request, and Clark is marked in yet another way. This time in vivid color. Sequel to "Hearts In Ink". Written for CLexFest Wave 9: Alien!Clark Challenge. Challenge: CLexFest Wave 9--Alien!Clark Challenge. Part/ability: Territorial marking of others (sort of) & X-ray vision. Series: Not planned! Sequel to "Hearts In Ink" Warnings: Same Sex (MALE/MALE) relationship. If this turns you off, go back now. NOTE I: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD. DO NOT READ IF YOU WANT TO READ THE STORY UNSPOILED. X-ray was capitalized when used by itself, to denote a power 'name'. (i.e., Clark flipped to X-ray...) X-ray vision was lower case when not at the start of a sentence as the word x-ray merely acted as an adjective to describe Clark's vision. (i.e., Clark used his x-ray vision...) I'm not sure if there's an official way to handle this, but this was the rule I went by in order to make some grammatical order to the mess that Clark's powers create! Whitney is mentioned once in a casual tone by Clark: this is due to Whitney not being dead in this AU, thus Lana's necklace is still with the big handsome lug and Clark still has Lillian's St. George box. This was in no way Clark being insensitive or cold about Whitney's "death". Additional note on condoms and Clark's perceptions of condoms at the end of the story. August 2004.


Love In Color
By Artemis
August 2004


Clark stared at the front door nervously, but there was no going back now. He wanted this, he'd fought hard to get this, and he wasn't blowing it now. He told himself to stop being a wuss; he opened the door.

Rather undramatically---and though he'd never admit it, with a touch of disappointment---he noted that there wasn't anyone lurking behind the door. No servant wondering why Clark was hurling the door open and fidgeting like he'd just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. No Enrique to give him disapproving and dour looks for impinging on Lex's personal time and space like the undignified interloper he was. (Even if Clark maintained Lex needed someone to shake him from his schedule of work, work, and more work.) Not even a menacingly blind and creepy Lionel was striding about since he'd headed back to Metropolis a month ago.

With mixed feelings, he wandered in the direction of Lex's office. He hadn't been told where to go, just when to show up. It shouldn't have hurt that Lex wasn't at the door waiting---he never had before, and Clark honestly couldn't see Lex standing around waiting for anyone---and he sternly told himself that he was a very mature sixteen so he understood that Lex had better things to do than stand by his own front door.

He was unaware of the pout on his lips as he poked his head into the office.

No Lex.

Noting the lack of laptop on the desk, he knew that meant that Lex hadn't just left for a bathroom break. The older boy was paranoid about leaving his laptop lying around where someone could snoop. Doubling back, he looked in the study, the library, the war room, and the smaller entertainment room. No Lex.

Just as he was about to flip over to X-ray---he'd had a talk with himself last night after Lex had left the farm, and he'd decided that abuse of powers in regards to Lex was not going to happen---Lex appeared from around the corner. His steel blue eyes lit up, practically glowing with delight, even as Lex started chiding Clark.

"Clark! I was looking for you. Where have you been? I thought you were supposed to be here twenty minutes ago."

Clark barely managed to keep a scowl off his face. He hadn't been late, and it was hardly his fault Lex wasn't where he usually was. Incorporating the advice from one of the pamphlets Lex got at Anger Management class, he breathed deeply twice and then said with no hint of accusation in his voice, "I did. I looked in your office, but you weren't there."

Lex frowned, looking in the direction of the wing where his home office was set up. Wing. Who had wings in their homes, not to mention turrents? "Were we supposed to meet there? I don't remember specifying---"

"No," Clark said sourly, not appreciating the reminder that he'd been wandering around for nothing. He shook it off, giving Lex a hesitant smile. He stepped forward slowly, and when Lex didn't do anything---like jump back or start exuding icy disdain---he reached out and clumsily hugged Lex. To his relief and pleasure, after a beat Lex lifted his arms and hugged Clark back.

Stepping back, Lex brushed his hand lightly over Clark's shoulder. It was a quick touch, barely there at all, and it made Clark a little crazy wondering if he'd imagined it. "I'm sorry. I gave the staff the day off. Otherwise someone would have let me know you'd arrived. I would have been there to greet you myself but I was still getting everything ready..."

Lex sent Clark a questioning look. Clark merely smiled, and he reached out to squeeze Lex's arm. That seemed to reassure Lex, or comfort him, or if anything else it reassured Clark. So when Lex turned around and began leading them through the corridors of the castle, Clark followed passively.

He had to admit it was pretty cool, if slightly weird, that Lex lived in a castle. He knew people went to Europe just to visit the castles there, and Clark had an authentic Scottish castle right in his own backyard. Well, not quite, but practically in his backyard. It even came with a young, bald Luthor with enough poise and airs to be a prince. He'd have killed to have played here as a kid. It used to be something of a dare to sneak in and spend the night at 'the castle', though he'd never heard of anyone actually doing it. Rumors of Dobermans and men patrolling with guns, not to mention wild stories of state-of-the-art security systems that included lasers and pressure sensitive floors, kept most kids from entering the grounds.

"Where are we going?" he asked Lex. Or rather, Lex's back.

Lex didn't even pause as he said loudly, if in a blithe tone, "My bedroom."

Clark tripped.

When Clark looked up from the floor he was sprawled out on, he saw Lex leaning down to help him stand up. He allowed Lex to do so, and Lex immediately started talking. "I'm going to have to speak with housekeeping. This is unacceptable. Who let these floors get in this shape?" Frowning, he brushed at Clark's clothes and muttered, "They know I used to have asthma as a child."

Flattered at first that Lex was concerned enough to berate the staff, while relieved that Lex apparently assumed he fell due to ill-kempt floors, his ego was shattered as Lex kept brushing at Clark's shirt and muttering about dirty floors and lazy maids. It barely took a glance to realize that Lex was fussing over some dust that seemed to be irrevocably stuck to Clark's navy blue and forest green overshirt. Luckily for Clark, he'd never had much ego to begin with so it was barely a poke at his self-esteem. It just irked a little that Lex wasn't fussing over him, even if Lex did know that he was invincible.

A little fussing was expected when you were dating, wasn't it?

Clark heaved a sigh, letting his new boyfriend of less than one day know that he was ready to move on. To the bedroom. Jeez. Just what did Lex think they were going to do? He wouldn't expect Lana to put out on the first date---not even the first year, or ever, if the rumors of her chastity-until-the-marriage-bed vows were true---so he hoped Lex wasn't planning on some big seduction scene.

He frowned, glancing down as some parts of him perked up at the idea of a bedroom seduction. He wasn't some slut, and while he was looking forward to sex as much as any guy would, he didn't want to move too fast. He wanted to date Lex, not just do stuff with him. Thinking back on most of the women that flocked to the castle, he realized that this was a distinct possibility for what Lex thought might happen. Except Helen...

Clark frowned even more fiercely, feeling the usual knot of anger and jealousy Dr. Helen Bryce brought to mind whenever he thought of her. He asked bluntly, "What about Helen?"

Lex looked up, saw the look on Clark's face, and took a step back. Face smoothing out like glass, he said loftily, "She's taken care of."

The brunette only sent Lex a suspicious look. He knew Lex too well to take that at face value. "Did you break up with her? Is she gone?" He wanted specifics.

Blue eyes weighed him slowly before Lex nodded minutely. "Yes. Literally. She's been offered a very prestigious position at John Hopkins. A 3-year research fellowship. She'll be flying out at the end of the month.

Oh.

Lex continued broodingly, "I found out yesterday morning. It was another reason I stopped by the farm. I was going to ask her to move in with me; I thought it might tempt her to stay. I wanted to run the idea by you one last time before I asked." Noting Clark's darkening look, his mood visibly lifted and Lex smirked. "She'd have said yes, of course, but we parted amicably enough when I stopped by her apartment last night."

"You went to her apartment last night!"

The smirk remained. "Of course. A Luthor isn't uncouth enough to break things off over the phone. Believe it or not, I did have some feelings for her. Actually, dating someone was a fairly new experience that I found enjoyable."

"And you did it with her!" Clark narrowed his eyes.

"By it, you mean..." Lex raised his eyebrows.

Clark bit his lower lip, but seeing Lex's knowing look he lifted his chin. He said imperiously, "It."

After a small snort of amusement, Lex just smiled a Mona Lisa smile that Clark had never seen before. Clark wasn't sure what he thought of it, other than being a little pissed off and a lot intrigued. "If you mean dating as a new experience, then yes. Though truthfully, I have dated a total of two individuals before her. However, I had also known both of the people involved since childhood, so it wasn't the same as with Helen."

Brow furrowed, Clark wasn't sure what to think of that. Was it a good thing or bad thing? Maybe being a childhood friend was bad if it ended in two broken relationships. Wasn't a relationship supposed to have mystery?

Good gravy! There was plenty of that between the two of them. Clark didn't know if he'd ever figure out Lex, even after ten lifetimes. And Lex seemed to be very interested in the mystery of Clark Kent. Who wasn't a mystery anymore. His heart plummeted. Would he have to work to keep Lex interested?

How do you keep the son of a billionaire interested, when said son had led a jet-set life and had probably already done everything by the time he was eighteen?

"If you meant sex..." Lex cast a discerning eye on Clark's reddening features and woebegone expression. A wicked gleam in those blue eyes had Clark simultaneously getting irked and getting hard. "Of course, I didn't do anything last night. A Luthor would never lower himself to participate in break up sex. But if you're asking if we ever...we did have an exclusive relationship. And she was hardly a virgin."

"There's nothing wrong with being a virgin," Clark snapped. And immediately stared at Lex in horror. Face turning beet red, his eyes flew to his feet.

His tennis shoes were looking a bit dirty. He'd have to ask his mom to wash them.

Clark swallowed hard as Lex crowded in close. One minute he'd been innocently planning his shoe maintenance and the next he had a lean, sleek Lex leaning against him. Arms around him and hands petting at the small of his back, Lex practically gave him a full-body rub. Clark noted distantly that if he hadn't been hard before, he definitely was now. At full attention.

Oh crap! Lex probably could feel it!

"Clark," Lex said softly. Teasingly. "I never said there was anything wrong with being a virgin."

Green eyes widened as a hand copped a feel, palming his ass.

Oh fudgecycles...was he tingling? Not knowing what else to call it, Clark felt something shiver inside as Lex purred, "I seem to have acquired one recently, and I assure you, I plan on getting the most out of my investment."

"Investment?" Clark asked faintly. He was fairly sure he didn't have any blood left in his brain. His eyes fluttered shut and he leaned into Lex, finally wrapping his own arms around Lex's shoulders.

"Investment," Lex said silkily. "After all, I've been taught by the best how to milk out an investment for every last drop. How to pace myself and take my time learning every facet, down to the smallest detail, and then maximize for the largest...gain."

Clark was fairly sure he was trembling. He was also fairly sure he didn't care. Not as long as Lex kept taking to him in that voice.

"It's all about timing. Knowing when to take the next step, advancing to the next level, the next achievement." Lex stroked the small of Clark's back. "A smart investor knows when to dive into an opportunity, and he never lets go of a smart buy."

"Never?"

Lex paused, the sensual spell he'd been weaving starting to falter, when he leaned forward to press a kiss against the side of Clark's neck just beneath his left ear. "Never," he said just as softly. "There's a reason my father created billions in just a few decades. The Luthors are very, very smart investors; we never let go of something once we claim it."

Oh. Clark sighed, feeling stupid but not being able to help himself. The skin where Lex kissed him tingled as if Lex had marked him somehow. Maybe he had. Who knew in Smallville.

Clark felt a stab of disappointment when Lex let go of him and stepped back. Something must have showed because Lex did another one of the lightening quick brushes against his arm, smiling at Clark. Clark smiled back automatically.

He was so dead, not to mention a complete loon. It was a good thing the servants weren't around, otherwise they'd know something was up by the besotted grin Clark knew had to be on his face. But this was Alexander J. Luthor, and he was looking like that at him. Like Clark was someone special and precious. Clark Kent, farm kid from nowhere!

"Are you okay?" Lex asked, his eyes still smiling, even as his face smoothed out into its usual politeness.

The question confused him for a moment. Before he remembered his untimely and ungraceful plunge to the floor. He had to bite back the mother of all sighs. He'd felt so hopeful when he'd found out that he'd been clumsy-prone because of Lana's necklace. Unfortunately, when Whitney had taken the necklace with him to parts unknown, Clark had found to his bitter disappointment that he still tripped over things---including his own feet---and spilled stuff on a fairly regular basis.

Could that be an alien power? The ability to self-harm?

He had to grin at himself. Not even being an alien could get him out of admitting he was just a klutz at times. He looked at Lex, green eyes still twinkling in amusement. "I'm fine. But thanks for asking."

Lex just reached out and gently squeezed his arm before pivoting. He started walking, and getting with the program Clark followed. As he tended to do whenever Lex was involved.

For the first time, he wondered if that was the reason his dad blindly refused to give Lex a chance for so long. Or...he couldn't have realized that Clark had secret feelings for Lex? Could he? Not even Clark had known until the tornado hit. Mind whirling, he forgot to wonder just why Lex was leading him to his bedroom.


Clark found himself in a room that was both like and unlike his friend, which upon further reflection the castle could be viewed in the same manner.

They were in the master bedroom itself. At least he assumed so. He honestly couldn't imagine a room being larger than this, so if this wasn't the master bedroom he probably didn't want to know. Calling it an actual bedroom was overly generous since it only resembled such a measly room because of the massive bed that was housed between the four walls.

The 'bedroom' was more like a suite. Or that's the only word he could associate with the concept of these rooms, and 'suite' was still inadequate. When they first came to the hallway that housed the Luthor heir's bedchambers---that was much closer in intent to the purpose and magnitude of the rooms---it became apparent that no, Dorothy, he wasn't really in Kansas anymore. At least not the Kansas he was familiar with.

He thought from reading books with scenes containing castles that some of it rang familiar at the furthest edges of his brain. The closest he could come to describing the first room they entered was 'sitting room'. He didn't actually know what a real sitting room looked like, but this room seemed designed for sitting and waiting. Maybe casual entertaining---like tea---while the lord of the castle passed out tea and biscuits to intimate or very close friends of the family.

Unable to stop the impulse, Clark had flipped on his x-ray vision when he'd finally gotten to the actual bedroom. The whole suite consisted of a whole series of rooms, including two interconnected bedrooms that were enormous. Each was easily twice the size of the Kent living room. Maybe three times as large, though the room he was currently in was the larger of the two. Both bedrooms had closets, as well as gigantic ancient-looking armoires lining their walls. Naturally, since this wasn't enough room for Lex's too-big-to-be-believed wardrobe, there was another room dedicated to nothing but racks and shelves of clothing. As well as an entire wall of shoes!

Clark had sent Lex a wary glance at this point, unable to comprehend anyone needing that many shoes. He had maybe six pairs in his closet. His work boots. A pair of winter boots in case of storms. Two pairs of tennis shoes. His dress shoes. A pair of hiking boots. And finally a pair of cowboy boots, which he'd never admit to owning in front of his sophisticated friend, but a necessary prerequisite for any true Kansas farm boy. It had been quite a big deal when his dad had gone with him to help pick them out at Fordman's, the entire trip a production. After all, these were cowboy boots.

Somehow, he suspected Lex wouldn't appreciate the distinction.

Especially since he wasn't so sure he knew what it was. He just knew by his own father's excitement that it was a big deal. A rite of passage, and a father-son bonding moment. He really couldn't see Lionel doing the same, and he'd seen with his own eyes that not one of those tiny shelves contained cowboy boots among Lex's horde.

Though there was one pair of black leather boots that looked as if they might go up as high as Lex's knees or thighs. He made a mental note to bug Lex about them later and find out what they were for.

Interestingly, both bedrooms had huge bathrooms. He didn't think they had bathrooms back in whatever century this castle was built, but he assumed it was a modern convenience added to the master suite despite its historical inaccuracy. A connecting bathroom was an incredible luxury that showed how spoiled Lex was, but Clark wasn't about to point that out. He could only dream of having his own bathroom at his house. Heck, he didn't know any kid at school that had their own private bathroom! Sometimes Lex really made him feel like Clark wasn't the true alien in the friendship.

There were enough additional rooms that it made Clark's head spin a little. One room off to the side of the sitting room was filled with entertainment and electronic equipment. Another was lined with bookshelves and luxurious sofas, almost like a mini-library. Unsurprisingly, there were more bookshelves in this room as well, as well as couches and chairs scattered throughout the room. One nook had a glass table, as well as several love seats; a very intimate arrangement that just hinted at certain types of company lounging around in Lex's bedchambers.

The whole arrangement, especially taking the endless amount of interconnected rooms into account, was slightly pretentious. Definitely hedonistic. He could have sworn he'd seen a hot tub in Lex's bathroom, plus a sunken pool that was probably the Luthor version of a bathtub! An entire wall of the walk-in closet---or was that the right thing to call an actual room that only acted as a closet and bore little resemblance to the tiny cramped spaces Clark was familiar with---was lined with formal clothes. And the bed...was a massive, ornate wooden centerpiece that spoke of centuries.

Like many of the items throughout the entire suite, as well as the castle itself, the bed was probably an antique worth more than the Kent truck. The bedding was in rich emeralds, creams, and golds that complemented the very dark wood. All sorts of fancy pillows were scattered over the normal rectangular pillows Clark was familiar with, making the bed looked like something out of a fancy catalog. Something designed just so, as much for show as comfort.

Clark noted faintly that five or six people could probably sleep on it very comfortably and still have elbow room. He colored at the thought flittering through his mind on why anyone would need that massive of a bed. Words like 'orgies' and 'threesome' popped into his head, and he wasn't sure if that was the influence of the Internet, Pete, or his dad's thinly veiled insults on Lex's pampered and wicked lifestyle.

He had a feeling he was going to really, really like wicked.

"Like what you see?"

Turning huge green eyes as big as dinner plates to see the amused look from his older friend, Clark flushed as he realized he'd been standing in the middle of the room staring at the bed. Who knew how long he'd turned around like an idiot and gaped through the walls in all four directions. He'd probably looked like a simpleton gaping at the unimaginable splendors of the upper class.

He was tempted to flee the room, seeing for the first time the blatant magnitude of how Lex wasn't anything like him. Like anything remotely Smallville. It had never really hit before. Lex always passed off his wealth as inconsequential, wearing his money so casually that it didn't really impact exactly how wealthy the Luthor family was. The castle itself was easy to dismiss when Lex passed it off as some mausoleum he had to bear, a punishment from his father. About the only thing Lex did indulge in and show off a little was his collection of sports cars.

Clark felt so out of his league.

Lex was like some captive locked away in this castle, an exotic prince from far away lands where magic and splendors untold existed. Splendors the Kents and the rest of Smallville couldn't even conceive of in their mundane, humdrum world. Clark, the son of one of the local villagers, didn't belong in this room or with this captive prince. But what held him, what made him feel confident enough to stay, were the stamps of Lex in the room.

The tall display cases in one corner of the room filled with Warrior Angel dolls and collectables. The entire bookcase full of worn comic books closest to the bed. A TV was set up over on the right with a PS2 and X-box already hooked up. On the table to his left was some medical thriller, a bookmark sticking out proclaiming that it was actually being read. There was also a science journal on the same table, lying on top of several college brochures and a Discover magazine. Since Lex had already graduated, Clark could only assume this is where all those facts and statistics came from that Lex liked to rattle off to Clark when discussing the future.

That warm feeling bloomed inside his stomach, the one that had told him for several months that he wanted much, much more than friendship with the heir to the LuthorCorp empire.

"Clark," Lex called quietly. There was still amusement in his voice. "What are you thinking?"

That you're the one from another world?

That thinking I could be good enough for you was a pipe dream?

It was this last thought that had Clark straightening his spine. If his own upbringing didn't teach him that money didn't matter and that love wasn't connected to dollar signs, the jaded bittersweet remarks Lex made in regards to his father and his childhood would have done so. He remembered how Lex had told Clark, an edge to his voice, that Lionel had had this castle built and then never stepped through the doors once. He pictured the model of Troy in the war room, Lionel's version of a toy because learning strategy was more important than a childhood. He knew Lex had been heartbreakingly lonely as a child.

Not that Lex had said so specifically, but it was there to be read for anyone who bothered. Clark had found that talking to Lex and receiving any kind of respect from the young genius---not to mention a chance in heck of understanding the complicated young man---was to understand that Lex spoke in layers. Sometimes the subtext was the real message, and what Lex didn't say was infinitely more important and revealing. He often talked in circles, moving around his end topic with seeming indifference or duplicity, when the journey to that point was an entire story for anyone who learned to listen.

Luthorese was a dialect that Clark didn't fully understand, but one he was determined to master.

After meeting Lionel he'd come to appreciate that as confused as Lex made him sometimes, Lex was somewhat direct and much more open with Clark than with anyone else. The elder Luthor spoke entire mountains worth of layers and rarely said what he meant. A part of Clark knew Lex was just as capable as speaking in the same manner, but for some reason it had never been turned on him.

Clark wondered at a world that spoke a language entirely of what wasn't said instead of what was.

Instead of saying any of this, especially the fact that he'd realized all over again how much Lex needed him---Lex wouldn't appreciate the thought of needing anyone---he smiled at Lex and twitched his shoulders up in a shrug parents the world-over recognized as distinctly teenager.

"Nothing," he said sunnily, trying to not look at Lex like some besotted teenager. Which he was, but he didn't have to advertise that fact. He was supposed to be subtle.

"Hmmm," Lex hummed, eyeing Clark suspiciously. But he let it go, as Lex always did, and turned to give the bed a critical glance.

Turning around, he stared at the bed himself. Lex didn't actually expect...and then for the first time, he noticed the tray next to the bed. Lined on top of the ornate surface were a burst of colors and an entire line of brushes. Gosh, he was really going to do this! He took several steps forward, entranced, but stopped when he realized he was the only one moving. Looking back over his shoulder, he saw that amused look on Lex's face again.

Clark scowled.

Lex just strode over, patted Clark's cheek, and with a quick pinch moved on towards the tray. Indignation fought with delight over Lex's teasing mood, a rarity and one he doubted Lex would show to anyone other than Clark. However, he shelved both for later thought and stepped after Lex quickly.

A Lex in motion tended to stay in motion. Those not capable of keeping up were left behind.

They stood silent next to the tray, beside Lex's mammoth hedonistic bed, and Clark could feel Lex's eyes on him. However, his own eyes were pinned to the tray. He felt something winding up and down his spine, prickly and warm that sent shivers all the way from his head down to his toes. It was a feeling he liked.

He asked with a hint of trepidation in his voice, "You really meant it?"

Lex smirked.

"Oh," he said weakly. Okay, stupid question. But...in Lex's bedroom? Lex could have mentioned that last night. He felt a moment's hesitation, and then a whole slew of eagerness bubbling up in his stomach like a pot of water left on the stove too long. They were really going to do it.

"You'll have to take off your shirt," Lex said, stepping closer and running one finger along Clark's arm. From shoulder to wrist. Unsurprisingly, Clark's breath caught in his throat.

When he finally remembered how to breathe he saw Lex had moved away, presumably to give him some privacy. But Clark was wise to Luthor ways, and he knew Lex was watching him avidly from the corner of his eyes. Suppressing the bashfulness that was swamping him, he started to slowly unbutton his shirt. Biting his lip, he took it off and looked for somewhere to set it.

Lex appeared at his elbow, causing Clark to jump. Eyeing Lex suspiciously, he handed the placid Luthor his shirt. Lex waited, and Clark looked down to see his t-shirt was still on. Flushing, he took that off as well and gave it to a patient Lex.

Resisting the urge to cover himself with his hands, he wandered over to the nightstand to poke around and explore. He valiantly ignored the tray and his growing excitement. It was suddenly unexplainable, but he needed what they were about to do. As much as he'd needed to mark Lex's name across his skin.

Clark didn't jump this time when arms wrapped around him from behind. It somehow fit that Lex moved so silently, and if Clark thought about it, there were several things that were slightly odd about the older boy. Not just richy-rich eccentric or Luthor twistedness, but odd like a nine-year-old whose hair fell out and never grew back. Pushing aside visions of raining meteors and vulnerable little boys, Clark decided to ponder this later tonight in the dark silence of his own room.

He found that worked well when he wanted to brood.

A hand idly brushed against Clark's left nipple, stroking the intricate pyramid there. Lex's left hand caressed along Clark's stomach and ribs, unerringly over the iced 'Lex' a sleepy fuzz-minded Clark had drawn.

Clark's knees felt suspiciously weak, a phenomenon Clark had always suspected was described for dramatic effect by writers. Nope. Wrong again, Clark Kent. He stood still, torn between leaning back to feel Lex pressed against him or forward to press into the hands that were making his insides curl. The decision was taken from him when a kiss was pressed to his shoulder and Lex withdrew.

Turning around, his face falling, he saw Lex observing him closely. Since this was nothing new---Lex was always watching him---he cast a darting glance at the bed. Lex saw this, of course, and said with a concern-tinted voice, "We don't have to do this, you know. Just say the word, and we can go find that new game and---"

"No!" Clark cried, flinching inside at how desperate that sounded. He took a deep breath and said more calmly, "No. I...I want to. Really."

Lex looked at him dubiously.

"Honest," Clark said, trying to will his sincerity to Lex. He fought to keep the growing exhilaration hidden, feeling like he was some kind of perverted freak for feeling so much anticipation. This just wasn't normal. "I swear I do. I just got a little nervous."

He laughed weakly, but Lex seemed reassured enough to gesture to the bed. Clark gulped, wondering why Lex chose his bedroom for this, but not really caring as he crawled across the bedspread. Settling down in a prone position, he turned onto his stomach when Lex signaled him with hand gestures to do so.

Grabbing a normal pillow from under Lex's collection of frilly decorative girl pillows, he wrapped his arms around it and set his head down. Partially a defensive gesture to make him feel more secure, it was mostly to get comfortable. Lex had warned him last night that it would take several hours.

He'd gotten permission from his mom to come over. His dad had given him an unhappy look, but had stayed silent. The elder Kent been much more accepting of Lex since the incident with Lucas, though the relationship with Helen had also helped. Clark had overheard his parents talking one time, and Jonathan had said something about how she seemed to be a stabilizing influence on the young heir. At the time, Clark had resented the implication---as if he couldn't provide a stabilizing influence and hadn't been doing so for the last year and a half---and had been intensely jealous at the apparent approval the doctor received from his father.

He knew his dad had come to like Helen, especially because of the way she'd treated him when the farmer had broken his leg. Everyone liked Helen, even Clark, much to his disgust.

But she was gone, soon to be across the country. Clark settled in comfortably, listening as Lex moved the tray over to the bed. He concentrated on the incredible softness of the pillow beneath his cheek as he felt Lex moving across the bed, and he was proud when he barely twitched as Lex swung his leg over Clark's thighs.

His cock definitely twitched, though, as Lex settled down on his butt. A heavy, warm weight that made something inside Clark tighten in a really good way. He felt a brush of air against his ear, and Lex spoke quietly into it, "Are you sure, Clark?"

"Yes," Clark whispered, unbearably excited. He thought nothing could feel better than this, and he wished he could freeze this moment forever.

"I drew several sketches last night. I didn't go to sleep until two in the morning." A light finger was traced over Clark's right shoulder blade. "Are you sure you don't want to see the final design? It'll go right here, and it'll be quite large just like you wanted."

Clark shuddered, the very idea filling up empty places inside that he hadn't even known were waiting to be filled. "I want it."

Another soft kiss was pressed to his shoulder, only this time it was lower and on top of the spot Lex had caressed. Clark's head jerked up a moment later as something warm and wet was pressed against his shoulder, and he turned his head to see a second tray on the bed. Squinting and flipping his vision over, he realized it was a bowl of shallow water and several white hand towels. Either the water in the bowl was hot or the towels were heated. The warm softness against his skin felt so good.

"To clean my canvas," Lex said softly.

Another towel was pressed to his skin---this one dry---over and over in a soothing rhythm. Clark closed his eyes, drinking in the pleasure and delight of so much external stimulation. His parents hugged him, and Pete slapped his back occasionally, but no one ever really touched him. The newness of the experience was heady, dizzying even, especially knowing it was Lex.

Lex touching him. Lex straddling him. Lex preparing him for what they'd talked about last night.

So much talk. All afternoon and into the early evening. They gone over secrets and lies on both sides. Yelling and shouting had occurred. Anger and resentment spilling out like puss from a lanced boil, the necessary accusations and arguing a part of the healing process as they'd finally gotten everything out in the open. A deliriously wonderful moment afterwards of cuddling on the sofa acted as a balm, while soft words and softer touches soothed and comforted both bodies and hurting hearts.

Lex had kissed him for real, and Clark would always wonder if they would've started necking if they hadn't heard the truck coming down the driveway. They'd drawn apart reluctantly, Clark not wanting to let go of such intimacy and connection when he'd only just found it. But he wasn't stupid, and he'd heard Lex's warning about what could happen if they were discovered while Clark was still in high school.

He had no illusions as to what kind of explosive reaction his dad would have. Pacifistic tendencies aside, he knew his father had a fiery temper and an abnormally violent reaction to anything in relation to the Luthors. He'd also seen his dad point a shotgun at Lex before, and he didn't want to see it again.

Not that he thought it would come to that. But the thing was, he wasn't sure it wouldn't.

He felt the towel being drawn away, and moments later he felt a thin scratching sensation against his skin.

"I need to sketch it out before I can paint on the inks," Lex explained.

It was an odd feeling, but sort of relaxing.

They'd talked about Clark's urge to draw on himself, particularly Lex's name. Lex had been unheeding or uncaring of Clark's embarrassment and had pressed onward with curiosity, scientific precision, and a tiny hint of concern about every facet involved in the drive. It was only the concern that gave Clark the constitution to bear Lex's probing questions. He didn't really care about the why, but Lex did so Clark bore Lex's determined interrogation. Lex had been fascinated and had poorly hidden his smug delight about why the 'Clark Luthor' had come to appear on Clark's bicep.

Lex always cared about the why, and Clark knew that if they had a hope of working out a relationship between them, he'd have to learn to accept this integral part of Lex.

People in Smallville never thought about the why to anything. It just wasn't in Clark's makeup to be comfortable with this intrinsic part of Lex, but he would try. No, he would succeed. There was no other choice.

He lay there forever, in a half-haze of acute awareness and sleepy comfort. Wet, tickling motions were made against his skin as brushes painted their magic. Lex remained completely silent unless asked a direct question, and Clark could practically feel the intense Luthor regard burning into his skin. Not one to give up the opportunity to be the focal point of Lex's attention, he internally preened at all the attention.

It was definitely several hours later when a cool breath was blown across his skin. Skin prickling, Clark shivered. If he hadn't already been hard, he would have gotten hard at the feel of Lex's breath against his back. Clark wasn't sure what had been exciting him more: the fact that Lex was marking him or the fact that Lex was straddling him, making little wiggling movements as he leaned towards the tray or over Clark. Probably both. He'd wanted to arch into Lex's touch, maybe push his hips into the bed to relieve a little of the pressure. But he'd been warned last night that he'd have to remain perfectly still.

"I'm just trying to dry it off," Lex said softly, explaining his actions as he had been the entire time. "I wasn't sure whether the ink would absorb into your skin right, but it's been drying at the rate I expected. It's why I asked you to come when I did. They're special inks designed for body art, and I had to have them flown in from New York last night. The courier came directly from the Metropolis airport to here via helicopter as soon as the plane got in. He arrived an hour before you got here."

"What...what does it look like?" Clark asked. He clenched his fists tight when he realized they were trembling slightly. He shut his eyes and pressed his cheek into the pillow.

"You'll see in a moment." Steady hands brushed along Clark's arms, moving slowly up and down. Up and down. "Are you okay? You're not cold? I had the heat turned up before everyone left."

Clark shook his head. "I don't get cold."

A momentary pause of silence, and then Lex said blandly, "Really."

"Uh-huh."

"Hmmm." Nothing more. Just that hum, and Clark wondered what Lex was thinking. Yet, whatever it was, Lex didn't stop rubbing Clark's arms.

"Did you really minor in Art?" Clark asked, feeling nervous now that he was about to see it.

Lex hummed again, and at a dissatisfied noise from Clark he clarified. "Yes. Mostly it was to piss off my dad. My roommate could hear the roar through the phone when Dad received my grades for that semester. If one art class got that reaction, I had to find out what multiple classes would do."

Clark rolled his eyes, but it didn't surprise him. It made sense now, in a Lexian way.

"I did surprise myself by enjoying them," Lex said, speaking in a rare candid mood. "I'd been taking college accredited courses since I was ten, and I'd taken extra coursework every semester since I first started at Princeton."

That didn't exactly fit Lex's reputation as the extreme bad boy. While it didn't shock Clark since he knew how smart Lex was and how much the older boy enjoyed learning, it didn't fit with how Lex hinted about what his disreputable teenage years were like. Clark asked cautiously, "Why?"

Lex paused. "Mostly because it was expected. Because of my IQ. But Dad insisted, and I think in retrospect, it was to keep me busy and out of trouble. I tended to get into more mischief when I was bored, and I was bored a lot when I was a teenager. The reason I was kicked out of Met U was in part due to this."

"Oh." A wealth of meaning in that word, and Clark wondered if he'd ever hear the tale of what happened in the infamous chem lab incident. But Lex was already back to Princeton and art; he knew enough not to interrupt when Lex got into a sharing mood about his enigmatic past.

"I enjoyed art history. Art theory fascinated me. Unfortunately, I was merely passable in application." Lex's tone turned rueful. "I'm a perfectionist. Art projects drove me batty, and I'd often create half a dozen pieces just to produce one that I found barely acceptable enough to turn in. The pottery class I took nearly drove me into a straightjacket."

"I bet you were good," Clark said loyally. He couldn't imagine Lex not doing anything perfectly. There was also the fact that he knew Lex well enough to be almost sure that if Lex really sucked at art, the older boy would never have taken more than the one course. If Lex couldn't do it well, he wouldn't do it at all.

"I was decent," Lex corrected. "I lacked talent and vision. There were a few in my classes who...it's hard to explain. I guess you could say they transcended the mere physical form of their work to create something that spoke beyond what the audience saw."

"You wished you could do that."

Lex huffed out a breath, but his tone was amused. "Yes. I loved biochemistry, as well as many of the other classes I took. But seeing what those others could do, I wanted it for myself."

Typical Luthor.

Clark found it endearing. As long as the need to have everything didn't consume Lex, he saw no harm in Lex's desire to master everything. To create and build, even as he amassed power and wealth. It was a little daunting, but the few peeks into the world of the rich and powerful had shown Clark that worse people could be in control of that kind of power.

His dad would be the first person to point out Lionel, not that he would agree with Clark's sentiment.

Besides, it was so much a part of Lex's character that he didn't want this part of Lex to change. He loved Lex the way he was, even if the young CEO drove him absolutely nuts at times. Especially Lex's fascination with puzzles and obsession with challenges.

"However, I'm fairly pragmatic. I wasn't born with the talent, and I had other interests." Lex's voice turned wicked. "And my dad really, really hated the fact that I minored in Art of all possible disciplines."

Clark snorted.

Another concentrated flow of air moved over his shoulder, and Lex moved off of Clark. Clark felt a pang, but started to get up. He was still hard, but he'd thankfully gotten into the habit of wearing his baggiest pants to Lex's. It was a bit awkward moving around, and he really wanted to touch himself; he managed to restrain himself.

Hands fell on his shoulders and back. "Easy. Make sure not to roll onto your shoulder in any way. It shouldn't smear, but there's no use tempting fate."

With Lex's help, he got up carefully and crawled to the edge of the mattress. Swinging his legs over, he stood up. He had to bite back a moan. Definitely hard, and Lex's hands moving all over his bare chest and back wasn't helping.

He didn't tell Lex to stop, though.

Lex lightly touched his arm, leading him to the bathroom he'd spied out earlier. Maneuvering Clark carefully, he made sure Clark's back never faced any of the multiple mirrors. Manhandling Clark to stand in front of a large full-length mirror that went from floor to ceiling, Lex stood behind Clark and smiled over his shoulder into the mirror. "Wait right here, and don't move."

Lex returned in a few moments, carrying a large hand-held rectangular mirror the size of an open hardcover book.

"Don't expect much," Lex warned, a serious expression on his face. "This was conceived in the middle of the night, and I'm hardly a professional."

Clark bounced once on his toes, giving mirror-Lex an impatient look. Lex saw it and a hint of smile tugged at the corner of his lips.

"Fine." Lex reached around, handing Clark the mirror. Then lifting his hands up to Clark's shoulder, he turned the brunette around. Clark went with the direction, holding the mirror up quickly and angling it until he had a clear view of his back.

He had to grip the handle of his hand mirror tightly when he almost released it in his shock. He breathed out, "Lex..."

He was facing Lex now. He saw just the tiniest hint of pink colored Lex's cheekbones, and a thin veil fell over Lex's eyes. "Like I said, it isn't one of the great works but---"

"But nothing," Clark interrupted, staring at Lex in disbelief. He reached out with his free hand, hovering for a fraction of a second over Lex's cheek, and then stroking it shyly. "It's beautiful."

"Beautiful might be a little strong---"

"No," Clark said unwaveringly. He gaped at Lex in wonder. This was a lack of talent? How long were they on the bed? "There's no other word for it. I thought you were just going to put our names together, maybe do some fancy artwork. But this...it's amazing. I've never..."

Clark blinked, too overcome to even describe it. Just looking at it made something inside him happy, and he felt like everything was right in a way it never had been before.

"It'll wash off eventually," Lex said hesitantly.

Clark found himself falling in love as he saw the insecurity Lex was doing such a poor job hiding. He'd never seen Lex less than secure. Less than confident. And he wondered how many times he'd fall in love with all the different facets of Lex.

"You can always paint it again," Clark said softly. "Or draw something different."

Unless Lex didn't want to?

"But you don't have to," Clark added in a rush.

Lex looked at Clark for a moment, and shook his head. His face was still so solemn. "I don't mind. If you're sure."

Clark nodded, his eyes flitting to the mirror and drinking in the image.

Lex had clearly drawn from his love of history. He'd designed a sort of crest, the best way that Clark could think of describing the vivid image. A large shield made up the center, with LUTHOR in bold Old English letters across it. Over the left side in a slight slant was one of Clark's rolled-up scroll parchments, with the name 'Lex' written across it. On the right side in a mirrored slant was 'Clark'. They both bordered the shield from above, and Clark was sure the joining of their two names symbolized the joining of their two lives.

Lex was big on symbolism.

On the side with Clark's name, a twisting sinuous dragon curled around the name and shield. It's long neck and head hovered over Clark's scroll. It was in multiple shades of green and blue, normal shades for dragons but Clark couldn't help but wonder if it had more meaning. Coincidentally, it was the same shade as their eyes. Also along the flank and tail, the blue got darker and shades of amethyst glistened beautifully. The coloring alone was breathtaking, the jewel tones gleaming under the bathroom lights.

On the other side, a white unicorn reared up on two legs. Front legs hovered over Lex's name, the gold-shod hooves the same color as the mane and tail. However, the traditional blue eyes had been replaced by green. Noting this, Clark's eyes shot to the dragon and saw that its eyes were blue. Both mythic creatures were stunning, muscular and powerfully built even as they emoted grace.

Clark started a little as arms wrapped around him, Lex pressing against him from shoulder to knees. Lex's arms were under his own and around his lower back, so he could still move the mirror. His eyes didn't leave the images he was drinking in. He watched as slender fingers---artist fingers---moved up to lightly trace the unicorn.

"He's protecting my name," Lex said softly. "As the dragon protects yours."

"Are they...they symbolize us, don't they?"

Lex chuckled. "Yes."

"I'm hardly pure," Clark complained with no real heat, watching Lex trace over the unicorn's body.

"Aren't you?" Lex whispered in Clark's ear, as his right hand moved down to rest on his butt and squeeze.

Clark shivered, and he couldn't help pressing his hips just a little into Lex. "I...I guess...I don't know."

"Unicorns have long been associated with virginity," Lex continued, his low voice and sexy. His left hand continued tracing along the body of the unicorn. "But there's also your purity of heart, which I've never encountered before. It...defines you. Yet, the unicorn was legendary for its beauty and grace. No creature in all the world was as beautiful or graceful."

A finger moved up to outline the spiral horn. "Unicorns were also incredibly powerful and dangerous for those who dared to try to cage them. They were beloved and reverenced in ancient tales. They're still icons of beauty and goodness today."

"Oh," Clark breathed out. He leaned in closer to Lex. "And the dragon?"

"Luthors are said to be cold blooded," Lex said wryly. "Not to mention reptilian."

"Lex!"

"Another mystic creature of legend and magic," Lex said more seriously, consenting to Clark's reprimand. "I found it appropriate. Powerful and feared, they're known to horde mountains filled with gold and treasure. Some tales speak of their ancient wisdom and benevolence. Others speak of their wickedness and greed."

"He's even more beautiful than the unicorn."

"Only to the unicorn."

Clark frowned slightly, but he was having trouble concentrating. Verbal parries with Lex took a lot of focus. Only, he could feel the drawing burning into his shoulder. Marking him. Owning him. Like Lex did. Had. Lex had done this. He had done this incredible, beautiful thing because Clark had asked.

Because Clark had needed it.

Hands wrapping around Lex's shoulders and still holding the mirror tight in his fist, Clark fell to instinct, too overcome with emotion to stop. At that moment, he didn't want to. He closed his eyes shut tightly and started to push into Lex's hip. It felt so good, to finally have pressure there, and he was so hard he was hurting. So filled up with love his heart was aching as it spilled out everywhere.

Clark didn't care about anything, the happy-good feeling too much for him to think beyond the images of the dragon and the unicorn, of Clark and Lex watching over each other. Guarding each other. Lex's hands on his back, the feel of Lex on his front. His name linked to Lex's. A push became a thrust, and a thrust became wild thrusting. It only took a handful of times and he was coming so hard. Heat swirling all throughout his belly and moving downward, Clark trembled as he exploded. He felt his knees starting to buckle, but Lex was there so he wasn't worried.

Mind swirling with images of dragons and unicorns, warmth moved throughout his body in tingles. He barely noticed as Lex helped him kneel down on the heated bathroom tiles. Supporting Clark's weight, Lex allowed the younger boy to drape himself all over Lex's shoulder and chest. Clark realized he was softly saying Lex's name, but Lex didn't seem to mind as hands stroked Clark's back in long, soothing strokes.

Lex. The sound of his name was like music, the best kind of music ever. Clark wanted to say it forever.

A hand moved between their bodies, rubbing lightly against Clark's groin. Cock empty, Clark hummed at the sensation. Embarrassment hadn't quite hit him yet, so he just immersed himself into the glowy warmth that made up his world at the moment.

"You could have let me take care of this," Lex murmured softly, his hand still rubbing Clark's soft cock soothingly.

"Hmmmm..."

"You're going to have to take these off. If we throw them in the washer right away, they'll be clean and dry by the time you have to go home."

Clark perked up a little at that, mind veering towards reality. Lex did laundry?

But then Lex did everything. Wasn't that already established? Was it a shock that Lex did laundry, too? Though, if Lex told Clark that he was a gourmet chef as well, he was going to have a serious talk about over-achievement and being too good to be true. Surely it was inconceivable that he'd fallen for a guy who could do absolutely everything perfectly.

Impossible. Unlikely. And slightly frightening if thought about for too long because one never knew with a Luthor.

"You're practically all leg," Lex continued dryly. "I'd give you a pair of my sweats, but I have a feeling they'll end at your knees."

Clark's lips tugged down. Was Lex saying he had freakishly long legs?

"Plus, I think you have a thicker waist. And your legs are bigger, too." Lex was contemplative. "Dad has some stuff here, but I doubt it'll fit. We can try that, if nothing else we can fashion a toga from a spare sheet." Lex sounded far too smug as he said, "You're really going to love college."

Clark, keen conversationalist that he was, hung on to the first point. "Are you saying I'm fat?"

He knew he sounded horrified, with a touch of indignation. But really! Freak legs. Fat. Why did Lex even want him? He was kneeling up on his own now, leaning back slightly with his arms still draped across Lex's shoulder. He sent Lex a narrow-eyed look of disgruntlement.

Lex barely managed not to roll his eyes, but Clark could see him wanting to. "No, I didn't say that."

"You said I had a thick waist. And big legs." Victoria hadn't had a thick waist and big legs. Neither had Desiree. Or Helen. Or Theresa, Catherine, or Shannon. Clark practically growled, or would have if he hadn't been twisting around trying to get a better look at his legs.

"Your waist is perfect," Lex said patiently. "As are your legs."

Clark put a hand out, stopping Luthor lips from leaning in for a kiss. "You said they were too long. And big. Are they hideous?" Clark looked down, flipping to X-ray to see through his jeans. He ignored the mess and critically looked over his legs.

They were sort of hairy, but not too hairy. Listening to Chloe and Lana gossip, he'd always thought this a good thing. They were sort of big though. And were his ankles chunky? What about his knees? He heard Chloe talk about some kid's knobby knees once, but he hadn't paid attention at the time.

Were his legs even human looking? Were they alien legs?

It wasn't like he checked out other guy's body parts. He'd definitely never looked at their legs. Sure, he noticed when other guys were wearing shorts---he wasn't blind---but it wasn't like he looked. As in looked. He felt a frission of concern. Maybe he was the real-life Barbie equivalent, with all his parts being the wrong size and length. Maybe on a normal human, he'd be the Giraffe Man.

Worriedly, he sent his gaze over to Lex's legs without thinking. He needed something to compare with. Something definitely human, which Lex conveniently was.

Lex was hard.

Oh.

Clark turned beat red and chocked. Lex leaned in, pounding on Clark's back a few times. It wouldn't have helped anyway, but having Lex lean into him when he knew Lex was hard---for him??---made Clark want to do something. He wasn't sure what, but his hands felt this itching need to slip between Lex's fancy expensive shirt and touch bare Luthor skin.

"Jesus, Clark. I didn't mean to upset you this much," Lex said worriedly. He cast a few apprehensive looks at Clark. "You're absolute perfection the way you are. I didn't say you were too anything. I just meant that your legs are longer than mine. And your legs are muscular. Not fat."

He eyed Clark tentatively, but whatever he saw had him adding quickly with a fervent voice, "Fuck. Anyone outside of Smallville would tell you that you have the body of a god. The ancient Greeks would have worshipped you. Hell, Hollywood would worship you if you wanted a career in acting."

"Really?" Clark said skeptically. Lex was laying it on way too thick. "You're not trying to make me feel better?"

"Clark, you're utterly gorgeous. I've never seen anyone who comes close to you. I've even caught my father checking you out a couple of times, and he's infamously picky about who he beds. People get worked over by plastic surgeons for years just to get to the point where he might look at them twice."

Clark started choking again.

A few back pounding moments later, Clark was silently staring at Lex. He really, really didn't need to know that about Mr. Luthor. He was pretty sure he was scarred for life. Maybe for two lifetimes.

Oh God, did that mean Lionel Luthor thought about him naked?

Lex started eyeing Clark suspiciously. Lex didn't sound angry, more disbelieving, as he asked, "Is this your idea of a joke?"

"No," Clark said truthfully, very purposefully not looking down. Less than 24 hours ago he'd sworn to himself he wouldn't misuse his powers around Lex, and he'd just finished oogling Lex's dick using x-ray vision. He was pretty sure that qualified as an invasion of privacy.

He couldn't tell Lex, could he? Confession was good for the soul, but it wasn't like he was Catholic. Not that his family was overly religious. It had always seemed a bit weird to him, Kansas being in the Bible Belt and growing up with all the kids at school who attended confirmation classes or Wednesday night bible study. It was only after Jonathan had told Clark of his alien origins that his parents had started going to church on Sundays.

According to his mom, she hadn't wanted to force a human god on her alien offspring.

"Clark, are you all right?"

No, not really. "Ummmm...yes?"

"Are you asking me?" Lex stared at Clark unblinkingly. "Let me repeat that: Clark, are you all right? Yes or no."

"Uh. Yes."

Lex frowned.

"Okay, no," Clark admitted, buckling under the pressure. "It was an accident. I was looking at my legs to figure out if they were gross, and then I looked over at you because I needed something for comparison. Only I didn't think, and I didn't mean to look at you naked, but you were. Naked, I mean. And hard. Which I didn't mean to see either. I would never invade your privacy like that, and I know I have responsibilities and---"

"Clark!" Lex said, his voice slightly raised. He continued on after a moment of silence and he saw he had Clark's full attention. "You're beautifully put together. Believe me, you're not anything approaching gross. As for using me for comparison, I hardly look like the average male human so the point's rather moot. And yes, I'm hard. No, I don't mind that you looked, though it is a little disconcerting."

Clark blinked slowly, staring at Lex uncomprehendingly.

"Clark, you just came from me barely touching you. Or I suppose technically, it was from you barely touching me. It's a huge compliment. If looking at you for the last few hours wasn't enough, that alone would have made me hard." Lex observed Clark closely and said with absolutely conviction, "You didn't do anything wrong."

"I didn't?" Clark repeated, dubious.

"No," Lex said firmly. "Other than if it gets that bad again, let me know. I'll help you out. If you feel more comfortable with your clothes on, there's a lot I can do to make it even better. Frottage can be a lot of fun. Or if you're curious, I'll jack you. Like I said last night, I won't push."

The brunette's face fell, and he looked at Lex desolately. Maybe he should just tell Lex. If Lex were going to run, it was better to do it now. He'd chickened out last night, but...the knowledge of the almost-tattoo on his back made him braver. "I don't...I didn't want to go too fast. But...I also don't think...I mean, it's hard to say, and I really don't know, but...well, it's just I don't know if we can do that. Because of what I am. It might work if we only did what I just did, and I don't want to hurt you but muhmph---"

A hand was clapped over his mouth. Lex gave him a quelling look. He stopped trying to talk.

Withdrawing his hand, Lex started to stand up. Clark was so busy thinking about how sexy Lex was that he didn't see the hand being held out to him at first. A few beats passed, his brain engaged, and he took Lex's hand. Lex pulled him up, grunting a bit at the effort. Clark steadfastly told himself that it wasn't because he was fat.

Ignoring the wet uncomfortable mess in his underwear, he peeked in the mirror over his shoulder. He wanted to preen as he saw the crest, as well as his name next to Lex's.

"We should move somewhere more comfortable."

Clark looked at the mirror longingly. "Can't we talk here?"

Lex rolled his eyes, probably because he didn't think Clark would see him since his back was to Lex. However, he saw the gesture through the mirror and couldn't help grinning at the sight of Lex so exasperated.

"You can come back and look at yourself later."

Clark felt affronted. "I'm not vain."

"No, but you can't take your eyes off your back. And I saw yesterday how you kept touching your wrist, sometimes even staring at it blankly with that strange squinting thing you do. Like you're about to pass gas. Or are really constipated. I'm guessing that's how you use your x-ray vision?"

Pass gas? Constipated! He didn't really look like that, did he? He started to frantically catalogue all the times he used X-ray in front of other people and who saw him looking...odd. God, he'd never lived it down if people started talking about that.

"I'm sure it's normal for you," Lex said gently, clasping onto Clark's elbow and trying to lead him away. Clark didn't budge. Another tug, and Clark still didn't move. "All right, we'll stay here."

Lex sounded very put upon, but he didn't look mad. And Clark was thinking, which Lex tended to make him do a lot. Did he keep touching his wrist last night? Angling his body to get a better view of his back, he couldn't help the warm flush he got deep down whenever he saw it.

"Is this about what happened?"

"Huh?" Clark was amazed at times with his own brilliance.

"This," Lex said significantly, placing a very unsubtle hand on Clark's crotch. Palming Clark's cock, he pressed lightly. "Are you freaked because you came in front of me? If you're worried that you had sex, technically---"

"What if I'm poisonous," Clark blurted out, cutting Lex off from whatever embarrassing diatribe he was about to launch into about sex.

Talking about sex with his boyfriend should be hot. But hearing Lex dissect what sexual acts constituted as sexual acts was on the bottom of the list of things he wanted to hear Lex speak about. Right down there with why dung beetles thrive in nature and the socioeconomic evolution of Japan throughout history. (Sadly enough, Clark had been forced to listen to both on two separate occasions.)

Lex, showing the amazing restraint and coolness that had pretty much given Clark the biggest case of hero worship in the history of hero worship, only froze mid-squeeze. He raised a single eyebrow and looked at Clark with polite interest.

"Is this a concern?"

"Ummm...yeah?"

"Let me restate that. Do I have a reason to be concerned? Or are you overre-, I mean, concerned for my welfare?" Lex smiled, though Clark thought it was a little tight. But then, he was feeling a little overly sensitive right now, so he could be imagining it. "Is there something specific that happened to make you suspect you're...poisonous?"

"Well, no," Clark admitted. "But I don't know that I'm not."

"You couldn't mention this before you stuck your tongue in my mouth?" Lex asked sardonically.

"Hey!" Clark's brow scrunched down. Lex's eyes moved up to stare at Clark's mouth. "You were the one sticking your tongue in my mouth first!"

"You didn't protest at the time."

"I didn't know you were going to do it, and then blam! Tongue."

"So you didn't like it."

"I didn't say that!" Clark's flickered to Lex's upper lip. He'd had his tongue on that little scar. However, at the rate he was going, it was going to be the only time. "God, Lex. That was unbelievable and you know it." This was so embarrassing. "I like kissing you."

Lex seemed to absorb this, dismiss it, and went ahead ruthlessly, "Clark, what exactly are you saying? Do you think you're poisonous in general? Like all bodily fluids? Saliva? Sweat? Semen? Piss? Fecal matter? Blood? Or is this something specific?"

"Uh..."

"And to who? To humans? To mutants?"

"Well, um---"

"Because really, Clark, if you thought there was even a chance that your saliva might be poisonous, then---"

"I wouldn't have done that!" Clark stared at Lex. However, an impatient look from Lex had him hastening to reassure Lex. "I wouldn't have kissed you back if I knew it would hurt you."

Lex sighed, and he moved back to take a seat on the edge of the hot tub. Since this was at least twenty feet away, Clark was forced to move away from the mirror. He tried to take a seat right next to Lex, but an irritated look had him keep at least six inches between them.

"Specifics, Clark. Are we talking specific bodily fluids? And has anyone been affected?"

"Uh. Well, I guess I don't know specifically. I'm pretty sure kissing's okay. I mean, you're okay. And so was Tina. And there was Kyla, but I suppose that's a bad example since she's dead. And, um, Jessie. She seemed okay in school afterwards. Of course she was only in school for one more day, but...you don't think---"

"Have you ever done anything else? Besides kissing?" Lex broke in. "I've always assumed something happened with Jessie. Either you got laid or you got off, and I suspected it was the latter at the time."

"Why do you say that?" Geesh! Why did everyone think he had zero chances of ever having sex? And cripes! Lex had thought about his sex life? Or at least his lack of sex life? Clark added hastily before Lex started going into all the reasons why girls didn't want to have sex with him, a touch of vehemence in his voice, "She wanted to have sex with me."

Lex just reached over and patted Clark's knee. "Believe me, Clark, the first time penetration occurs for either of us, you'll know what the difference in response is. I highly doubt what I saw that day in my study was your I-just-got-laid look."

Clark spent a moment absorbing this and sorting it out in his head, but Lex didn't wait for Clark to catch up.

"So semen? Blow jobs? Hand jobs? Have you had either? Did your partners experience any adverse effects?"

Clark knew he was going to die of utter mortification.

"Clark," Lex said patiently, looking at Clark's reddening face, "If you can't even talk about hand jobs, you sure as hell aren't ready for one. And I'm not saying that to be cruel, but you need to realize sex is natural. If you're this way just hearing me mention the word, we need to seriously consider just how slow you really need to progress in a physical relationship. I'm not going to push you into something you're ill equipped to handle emotionally."

"What?" Clark asked, eyes widening. Was Lex saying he was too young to have sex? Which, okay, he sort of was, but not really! "I'm not too young."

"I'm not saying you're too young. I'm saying you might not be emotionally ready for---"

"Honest, Lex, I'm fine," Clark said earnestly. Crap. When he told Lex he wanted to take things slow, he just wanted the older boy to know he didn't want to jump into bed right away. He knew how Lex usually approached relationships---if you could even call them that---and he didn't want to be another notch in Lex's closet full of belts.

It worked for Jennifer Aniston. Not that he paid attention to gossip about movie stars, but Chloe had told him and Pete all about how the actress had refused to have sex with Brad Pitt before they were engaged. His reasoning was, 'Look how well it worked out for her.' Chloe sure had crowed about how holding out could bag you the hottest guy in the world.

Clark sort of figured if it worked for Jennifer, it could work for him. Not that he paid attention to gossip about famous people.

On the other hand, the chances of ever having sex seemed to be decreasing exponentially. One had to know what battles to fight.

"Really," Clark repeated. "I'm not too young."

Blue eyes were unconvinced, but Clark thought he could detect a glimmer of belief.

"We're getting off topic," Lex said seriously. "We're going to need to talk about our sexual histories at one point, but that can wait for when we're both ready for a physical relationship. Right now, I need to know about blow jobs and hand jobs. Have you had either? Did your partners experience any negative affects from contact with your semen?"

"No," Clark said sheepishly, barely able to keep eye contact with Lex.

Lex stared at him.

Clark sighed, shoulders slumping. "No, I haven't had either. I shot off before Jessie actually touched me. But it was hot!" Clark defended himself. He turned a touch red as he added, "And she let me touch her."

Again, Lex patted his knee, this time absently. He was studying Clark, blue eyes dissecting him. Clark fidgeted, but silently underwent whatever examination or test Lex was performing on his features. He knew Lex was just that way. It was weird, but he was used to it by now.

"Then I assume you're just afraid because of lack of knowledge. Not because there's been an actual indication that intimate contact with you would harm me."

Clark nodded, relieved that Lex finally got it. He really wanted to stop talking about the lack of sex in his life. He got this from Pete all the time, or rather he did before he told Pete about being an alien. His heart shot down to his stomach. Did that mean anything? Maybe Pete thought aliens couldn't have sex. Or maybe...maybe he thought aliens shouldn't have sex with humans. Like it was disgusting or something.

Maybe Lex really did think he was disgusting. Maybe all that talk about him being perfect and gorgeous was only to make him feel better.

A hand slipping onto his knee pulled him from his depressing line of thought. He knew he'd have time to be depressed about it later, so he focused on Lex. This was important. He'd rather die a virgin than hurt people just by being what he was.

"...so I can understand why you might have feared that. Really, Clark, sometimes I have to wonder about the types of movies you watch." Lex waited a beat, and when Clark didn't comment, he went on, "This dilemma is easy to solve. I'll take a semen sample, and I'll test it in my lab. I'll test it against myself specifically, since I'm assuming you're not going to be fornicating with anyone else in the near future."

Semen sample? What the heck? Clark's shoulders tightened at the mention of taking a sample, and he hunched down as the image of a lab popped up in his head.

"If we can figure out a way to get a blood sample, that would help, too. But I think I can work around that."

Oh, no. He couldn't go into a lab, he just couldn't. He kept picturing that lab Dr. Hamilton had set up, a needle poised to kill Pete with just one push. Labs were bad, bad places. He'd been told this his whole life. He'd been told over and over that doctors were bad, that he couldn't ever go to one, that if something ever happened at school---

"Clark?"

He loved Lex, but he was practically shaking thinking about it. "Do we have to?" Clark asked plaintively.

"If you want your cock anywhere near me? Yes," Lex said inflexibly. He didn't seem to realize how freaked out Clark was. Clark was glad; Lex already thought he was too young. Better he didn't think Clark was a complete baby. "You're the one who brought this up, Clark. But it is a good idea, and it's better to make sure we're...compatible. While I doubt it's likely you'd actually be poisonous to me, there's always the possibility of an allergic reaction depending on how different your body chemistry is."

"Oh." Clark felt himself deflating. He knew he hadn't been making a big deal over nothing. "So we might not be compatible? Uh...you think I might hurt you because I'm a freak?"

Lex leaned forward and kissed Clark softly. He spoke quietly against Clark's lips, "No. Because you're not indigenous to this planet, it was smart of you to realize that complications could theoretically occur during...fluid exchange. So we'll test ourselves against each other. It's just as important that I test myself against you so we know that it's safe for you to be involved with me as well. Accidents can happen no matter what types of precautions you take."

"But I don't get sick."

"I don't either," Lex said, raising his eyebrow. "We discussed this last night. Because stimuli or circumstances haven't broken down our immune systems at this point in our admittedly young lives, it doesn't mean something out there doesn't exist that could. I'm not quite human myself so there are unknowns involved that I should have tested for already."

In other words, Lex shouldn't have stuck his cock in other people before without testing himself. Clark was just fine with Lex stopping that completely. He didn't want to see one more of Lex's 'old friends' ever again.

Oh, God. He wasn't going to be one of Lex's 'old friends' someday, was he? Friendship of legends meant a long time. Right?

"Luckily, I've never had sex without a condom, so I don't have to worry about having inadvertently killed a past partner because of mutant sperm."

Huh? "You've never had sex without a condom?"

He'd heard the guys in school talk about barebacking and how it was the greatest thing. He just sort of thought all guys did that, and condoms were something adults just talked about because they didn't want kids to have sex.

"It's the era of STDs and AIDS. Not to mention how many women out there would love to have my child so they could milk me for child support. So no, it was protection or abstinence. Including blow jobs."

"But you don't get sick."

"I didn't know how hardy my immune system was until I came to Smallville. I didn't exactly undergo physical trauma on a regular basis until being sent here." Translation: Clark, you dummy, the mutants in Smallville like to try to kick my butt on a monthly basis; not everywhere is freakishly violent like your hometown. "Even if I had known, I don't want to test it by being exposed to the HIV virus. There's reckless and then there's stupid."

Which made sense. And he was thankful Lex had acted safely. He also wasn't an idiot; he'd heard Lex's message loud and clear. "But do you have to take samples?"

Touching Clark's cheek gently with his hand, he said quietly, "Trust me, Clark. I'm not going to hurt you."

"I know." But it was still scary.

"We need to do this." Lex paused. "Is there anything else that's concerning you?"

"Anything else?" Clark echoed.

"Do we need to anticipate any other potential problems? Do I need to test for anything in particular?"

Clark shook his head. "Not that I know of. I don't really know all that much about that kind of stuff." He was just taking high school Biology this year. He was lucky he knew what a test tube and a petri dish were.

"Good, then---"

"Though..." Clark bit his lip. How to say this? Lex, I'm worried I might break you if we ever have sex. That probably wouldn't go over real well. He said tentatively, "The whole strength thing...not that I think I would, and I'm really good at controlling it now..." He looked at Lex with earnest eyes. "...really, really good. I haven't had an accident in years. The only reason Dad won't let me join the football team is because he's irrational about it. And I would never hurt you."

Lex waited, and when Clark didn't say anything else, he prodded, "But..."

"But I don't know for sure if I can control my strength when...you know," he said, looking at the floor tiles. They were white with gold veins. Did that mean it was marble? He mentally nodded. It looked like marble. He'd really liked Earth Sciences in eighth grade. The rock section was his favorite after the astronomy section. He'd been disappointed when he found out you didn't learn about that stuff in high school.

"During sex?" Lex asked. "Or orgasm?"

What? Huh? Oh. His strength. "Uh. Both?"

Clark was very avidly following the little veins with his eyes. He wondered if he looked hard enough if he'd see a pattern or picture. Like those ink blot tests. Maybe he'd take a psychology class if he ever got to go to college. And astronomy classes and earth science classes, too.

"Then we'll just have to take things slow like we planned," Lex said, no change in his voice. "That way you can tell me if you ever feel like you're about to lose control."

Clark looked up at the young man next to him. Lex was looking at him steadily, the affection just as strong and real as it was before this stupid conversation. He didn't seem scared or freaked out. "Really?" he asked hopefully. This was too easy.

"Of course," Lex said loftily.

Then again, this was Lex. Expect the unexpected. He hadn't freaked once since hearing Clark was an alien. He hadn't even been scared when he'd suspected someone had ripped off the roof of his car. And he didn't go running when Clark told him about his poisonous, human-killing body.

Clark scooted over.

Lex smiled.

Clark scooted over even more until he was sitting thigh to thigh with Lex. "So...um...this is a nice bathroom," Clark said conversationally.

Lex started laughing.

Clark felt himself starting to grin. Everything was going to be okay.

Everything was going to be better than okay for the first time in a long time.


Clark was waiting for Lex to come back from the laundry room. Personally, he'd wanted to go along so he could say he'd seen Lex Luthor doing laundry. He'd made the mistake of telling this to Lex though; hence he'd been banned from the trip.

And it was a trip. He'd followed Lex with his x-ray vision. He felt this wasn't impinging on Lex's privacy nor was it an abuse of his powers. It was training. Because Lex got into trouble all the time, so he should know how to track Lex. In addition, the practice was always good; he'd found fine-tuning his powers usually helped more often than not.

So, he'd watched Lex go to the laundry room, measure out the capful of what looked like some expensive laundry detergent, and toss in Clark's jeans and boxers. He couldn't help himself. He'd wanted to make sure Lex didn't have a maid tucked into some corner or that Enrique wasn't lurking somewhere out of sight.

Lex was making his way back here now, but was still on the other side of the castle. The place was huge, and he could see how Lex was in such good shape for someone who sits behind a desk every day. Clark estimated that it would be at least another ten minutes.

He was wearing a pair of Lionel's sweats the man had used for his physical therapy sessions. The elder Luthor had a whole wardrobe filled with more clothes than all three Kents combined, and Lex had explained that the entire thing had been bought and shipped from Metropolis when Lionel moved into the castle to recover from his accident. It would all stay here, and if Lionel never came back to the castle it would remain untouched until the day he died.

Clark couldn't conceive of such waste. However, he was grateful, if slightly creeped out, that Lionel's clothes fit him. He'd had a moment of internal crowing about how he wasn't that fat before he'd decided he looked like a dork wearing dress pants with his green and blue flannel shirt.

It was a nice shirt. He got two new flannel shirts every Christmas, and this one was from this past December. As much as Lex liked to tease him about his vast flannel wardrobe, it was practical for farm life. It was warm during the winter and fall, plus the material was thick and sturdy so it kept for a long time. There was a reason farmers bought and wore their flannel for decades. Moreover, waste was avoided on a farm where every dollar could be spent paying off expensive farming equipment or placed in a savings account for the season when the weather decimated the crops.

Too much sun. Not enough sun. Too much rain. Not enough rain. The devastation of tornadoes, wind damage, or hail damage. All potential foes for every season's crop.

The weather wasn't a farmer's worst enemy, nor was it often crippling. But when extreme weather did hit, it could cost a farmer his land and home if a lost crop meant missed mortgage or loan payments. Rainy day accounts could be literally named to a farmer.

He shook his gloomy thoughts, walking to the next bookshelf. Lex had an extensive collection of rare books. Or Clark assumed they were rare. They were definitely very, very old. The young heir also had bookshelves full of leather-bound books, as well as a few manuscripts and one scroll. However, these had been found in a glass case against one wall, along with what Clark assumed were very rare or very fragile books. He'd have to ask Lex about their story sometime.

The bookcase in front of him seemed to be filled with more modern tastes in mind. The mix was eclectic, which didn't surprise Clark. He noted authors from all genres of fiction writing, both in paperback and hardcover. Steven King. Orson Wells. Michael Crichton. J.R.R. Tolkien. Mercedes Lackey. Isaac Asimov. Jeffrey Deaver. Terry Brooks. J.K. Rowlings.

Clark grinned at the last. He didn't know Lex had read the Harry Potter books. He'd known Lex had seen the movies, but then everyone had seen the movies. He'd have to make sure and remember to tease Lex when the opportunity arose.

He fingered a novel by Orson Scott Card that he hadn't read before, and he plucked it out before he really thought about it. He knew Lex wouldn't care if he borrowed it. He had to fight back a laugh as he saw a few romance novels. Amanda Quick. Iris Johansen. Clark wondered if Lex had gotten them for himself or for female company that stopped by the castle.

That thought quickly wiped the smile off his face.

Scowling at the binding of one that had a miniature picture of some beautiful blonde woman with her breasts heaving out of her dress, Clark had to suppress the urge to set fire to it with his eyes. The only thing stopping him was the possibility that Lex might get so mad for willful destruction of his property that he might make Clark stay away for a few days (or weeks) while he cooled off.

Clark had to admit as he forced himself to move on, he'd be pretty ticked off if Lex went into his room and started destroying the stuff he didn't like. The way Lex sometimes eyed his clothes, Clark thought they'd be the first causalities.

The sixteen-year-old was very surprised when he came to a display case of some sort. The actual woodwork was beautiful, and it was covered with small intricate carvings carved directly from the cabinet itself. The craftsmanship was incredible, and Clark had never seen anything like it. Through the panes of glass, he could see several shelves of beautifully displayed jewelry on black velvet: necklaces, bracelets, rings, watches, and even a few pairs of cuff links. The shelves below it were filled with boxes. There didn't seem to be any set type. Wooden boxes. Boxes of metal. Porcelain or china. The only thing they had in common was how lovely they were.

"Did you amuse yourself while I was gone?"

Clark pivoted around to see Lex a few feet away, watching him in interest. He held up the book in his right hand, thrusting it towards Lex. "Can I borrow this? I haven't read it, yet."

Lex stepped closer and nonchalantly slid a finger along the top edge of the book. "Of course. Keep it for as long as you want. I know you have that biology test in two weeks."

Cringing mentally at the reminder, Clark tried to push the test to the back of his mind. He had plenty of time, and he felt like he was on top of all his reading. Maybe he'd see if he could form some sort of study group with Pete, Chloe, and Lana next week.

Chloe. An even less pleasant reminder. He might have only known her for two and a half years, but she was easily one of the best friends he could ever imagine having. From the very first she'd thought he was weird---Amish meant weird, right, especially to a city girl?---and she'd wanted to be his friend anyway. She'd always stuck up for him when someone was putting him down within her hearing, and she was absolutely fearless about everything.

Except...she was hurting right now. At first he'd blamed her. He didn't ask to be the object of her crush. They'd agreed to only be friends, so it wasn't his fault if she hadn't been honest. Yet, Pete hadn't let him remain defensively angry. He'd chipped away at Clark every day, forcing Clark to see the hurt running beneath the surface, and now he couldn't look at her without seeing it there like an oozing wound. It had been three days of tense silences and even more tense conversations, and Clark had been so very glad the weekend had come.

Tomorrow he'd have to face her. And the day after that, and the day after that.

Should he tell Chloe that it wasn't Lana?

No, she was too smart. She'd know right away through the process of elimination that it had to be Lex. He'd fought for the right to date Lex, and his end of the agreement was swearing to keep it a secret. He even saw why Lex felt that way. He couldn't tell Chloe without Lex's consent, and Lex would never give it.

But Pete's advice seemed so cruel. To tell her she'd never win over Lana. Because if Lana was the winner, then that made her the loser. He didn't think Chloe was a loser in any way.

And what about his secrets? Pete thought he should tell her. Or at least that's what he implied. But could he? His parents would kill him if they ever found out he told Lex. Especially why he told Lex. If he told Chloe, they'd never let him see the light of day again. Besides...

"What's wrong?"

Everything. Lex was looking at him in concern, which was typical of Lex. He'd been doing that since the river. Either intense examining looks or concerned gentle looks. This was the guy his dad thought was dangerous? Yeah, right, Dad.

"Chloe hates me." Clark blinked. He hadn't planned on saying that. But it was true, and maybe Lex would know what to do. He seemed to understand people so much more.

"Why?" Lex laid a hand over Clark's, their fingers overlapping as they held the book together.

He shrugged, looking back at the display case. A pretty silver bracelet with blue stones twinkled at him. They reminded him of Chloe's eyes. At least until that stupid day in lunch, and now her eyes were dull and full of hurt. "She saw the bracelet I drew on my wrist. She thought it was about Lana, and she told me I should ask Lana out because she'd say yes."

"Ah."

Subtext and layers. Just that one word in that tone told Clark that Lex understood what Clark wasn't saying and that he was thinking about it. He hoped Lex would think of something because he had no idea how to fix this.

"I take it Miss Sullivan still has feelings for you?"

"Yeah," Clark said softly, eyes sliding up to meet Lex's. "I didn't know she did until I saw her face after she saw your initials. She...she ran to the girl's bathroom."

Lex's face was smooth and blank. Clark had no idea what Lex was thinking. He wished Lex was more open. More readable. But then he probably wouldn't survive the games Lionel played, and after seeing Lionel at LuthorCorp the last two times he was just thankful Lex was the way he was. Surviving was the most important thing.

First the hostage situation and Lionel's creepy vault. Then Lucas and the set up they'd concocted just to trick Lex. To force him back to Lionel's heels like a trained puppy. Clark couldn't imagine having a father like that.

"She's tried dating other people, correct? I believe you said one gentleman's name was Justin. And the other was Evan. Or Ian? I don't quite remember."

Clark looked at Lex sharply. He knew Lex never forgot a name.

"You do realize that both times she put aside thoughts and feelings for you to concentrate on someone who was genuinely interested in her? Like anyone, she wants someone who wants her. But you'd have to be willing to stop being so possessive."

"I'm not possessive," he automatically denied.

"No?" The word spoke volumes on how much Lex believed that. "You treat Lana and Chloe like they should belong exclusively towards you, regardless of the actual relationship you share. I know you care about them, but isn't it also true that you find it flattering when they fight over you? That you like it that they like you?"

"No!"

"Really?" The gentle amusement in Lex's tone made Clark want to grind his teeth together. "It's okay, Clark. Anyone would feel that way."

"Stop," Clark snapped. "You don't have to treat me like this."

"Like what?" Lex asked in polite---and false---interest.

"Like I'm your father," Clark said darkly.

Lex froze. After a few tense moments, he started to thaw. His expression opened a little, and a shimmer of regret wavered over his features for a split second. He moved closer, hugging Clark briefly before stepping back. "I apologize, Clark. I...I was feeling defensive. I know you have feelings for her."

"I don't," Clark said quietly. "Not that way."

"But you wish you did. And you don't like sharing her."

Clark sighed, but he thought about it. And he reluctantly nodded his head. "I wish I didn't hurt her. But I can't give her what she wants. As for sharing her...I just...maybe you're right. Maybe."

Lex seemed to take this concurrence gracefully. "I'm not criticizing, merely stating a fact. I'm hardly one to point fingers since I don't share anything."

But that was different, wasn't it? Because Lex really was a spoiled brat, even if he was so cool it was hard to see that side of him sometimes.

"I...I think it's because I only had Pete as a close friend," Clark said slowly, feeling out his own thoughts. "I never had a lot of friends. And then Chloe came, and she meshed so well with Pete and me. It...it was like she'd always been there. And then Lana became my friend, and I'd dreamt about being her friend for so long...and even you. It took me so long to get really good friends that I don't like sharing them. Not when I only have four."

Lex listened silently, but his eyes spoke volumes about understanding and empathy. Clark realized Lex probably knew firsthand what Clark was talking about.

"I wanted to tell her that it wasn't about Lana, but I couldn't. And now she's barely talking to me, and Pete says she thinks she's a poor second-best compared to Lana."

"You can't tell her those weren't Lana's initials, Clark. It's too dangerous for both of us."

"I know."

"I'm serious," Lex said in a low voice. "My life could be ruined. I'm taking a huge risk by entering into a relationship with you. I wish I could make it easier for you, but I won't be labeled a child molester willingly."

Clark shut his eyes, but nodded. That solution really was too easy, and he'd known it wasn't a real possibility.

"Do you really want to make her feel better? Would you be willing to give up any shot of ever dating Lana?

"I told you, Lex," Clark said with a touch of anger, opening his eyes to glare at Lex half-heartedly. "I don't want to date Lana. I'm not in love with her. I'm in love with you."

Clark saw a light shine from Lex for a few seconds before it was swallowed up by Lex's eternal unruffled calm facade. "Then pull her aside tomorrow. Ask her to meet you after school for an hour or so. Make sure she agrees, and meet outside the school. Take her to the Beanery, not the Talon." Lex walked over to his dresser and picked up his wallet off the top of it. Pulling out a bill, he walked back and tucked it into the front pocket of Clark's shirt. "Buy her whatever she wants. Coffee and a sandwich. A brownie or piece of pie. Insist she get something, and make sure you go up to the counter and pick up everything to bring back to her."

"Why---"

"Treat her like a queen. Don't lay it on too thick, she'll sense it a mile away from you. But you're naturally courteous, so treat her like a lady." Lex smiled quickly. He laid a hand on Clark's arm and squeezed. "Then tell her that you thought about it very seriously, and your friendship with her is more important than any crush you have on Lana. Make sure to use the word crush. Then tell her that a passing high school fling can't begin to compare to the lifelong friendship that you want to have with her."

Clark blinked, then instantly wished he had a piece of paper to write this all down. He had a photographic memory, which meant it was visual, so he just knew none of this was going to stick.

"...don't say that unless you can say it seriously---"

"What? Can you repeat that?" Clark asked quickly, focusing.

Lex looked a little disgruntled, but said, "At that point, she'll probably insist she only wants you to be happy. She might try to talk you into going for it with Lana. Make sure she understands that you feel like she's one of the best friends you'll ever have in your life. That she's like a sister. Maybe say something like how you want your children to play together---that you plan on her being their aunt, if not in blood, then in heart. But don't say that unless you can say it seriously. Like you mean it. If you don't mean it, she'll know you're lying."

Fudgecycles. This was really good stuff. Just hearing it made him want to make up with Chloe. He just knew Chloe would feel the same way. And he really did feel that way, so it wasn't even lying.

He gazed at Lex speculatively, gauging Lex's likely response. Finally shrugging to himself mentally, he decided to go for it. He stepped up to Lex and threw his arms around him, hugging him tightly. When Lex's arms went around him in return, he asked, "Will you write all that down for me?"

Lex groaned. "Clark! The whole point is to sound sincere and spontaneous. If you practice or use my exact words, it's going to sound like a canned speech. Especially for you. You can't lie. If she's half as clever as I suspect, she'll read your face and tell if you lie or exaggerate the truth."

"None of that's a lie, though," the brunette said earnestly, leaning back to look into Lex face. "That's exactly how I feel. You're brilliant! I wish I knew people as well as you did. I wouldn't get into half as much trouble as I do."

"You did catch the part about never dating Lana."

"Yeah. So?"

"Mean it, Clark. If you ever go back on that, Chloe will hate you. Choose her over Lana, make it about friendship and sibling love, and she'll love you for picking her over the town princess. But if you change your mind and pick Lana, she'll never forgive you. It'll make everything you said a lie."

Clark nodded enthusiastically. "Absolutely. I will mean it. And this will fix everything. You're the greatest!" He hugged Lex again. "Now you just need to write---"

"No," Lex said firmly. Looking at Clark's face he repeated more strongly, "No. But I'll practice with you. We have time to kill this afternoon. We'll skip the movie and get something to eat. Afterwards, we'll sit in the kitchen and you can practice on me. Including getting me a cup of coffee and bringing me a saucer with some sort of sweet. They'll be no tripping or spilling tomorrow."

"Sure, Lex," Clark said cheerfully, confident. He flashed a megawatt grin at his bald boyfriend, thinking that now everything was right with the world. He had Pete and Lex on his side. Soon he'd have Chloe again. Lana was his friend. His parents loved him. How could he not be happy when he had so much abundance in his life?

"Let's go right now. I'm really hungry. And how much did you give me..."

Lex slapped at Clark's hand before he made it to his pocket, ignoring the wounded look Clark shot him. "Leave that alone. And don't peek with your vision. Just take the money and don't complain. Since it's my plan, I'll fund the whole venture. Plus, I don't want you to be stingy when you're supposed to be treating Chloe."

"Why can't we go to the Talon? They have better pie," Clark griped good-naturedly. They also had better coffee, but there was no use repeating the obvious.

"Think about it, Clark."

"But Lana might not be working..."

"But it's her territory. If you want to mend fences with Chloe, do it in Lana's enemy territory. Believe me, Chloe's the type of girl who'll know and appreciate the gesture."

"Well...if you say so."

"I do."

"You know you're giving me money to give to your competition?"

"I'll live."

"Thanks, Lex."

"Anytime."


"You're going to wear a hole in it."

"Huh?" Clark glanced up to see Lex leaning in the doorway, looking at him in amusement. His eyes slide away as he looked back at the mirror in his hand. "Very funny."

The brunette looked back in time to see Lex straighten up, and he noted in his usual faint awe that Lex just seemed to glide across the floor. Was that something they taught you in those fancy schools Lex went to? Or was that something Lionel had taught?

Clark grimaced, thinking of the older Luthor. He had to shudder a little as he remembered Lex's remarks about his father checking him out, but instead of dwelling or being grossed out he called to mind the last time he'd seen the man. No, the eldest Luthor male didn't glide. He strode, like an emperor who knew that everything around him belonged to him and only him. Clark would even say that Lionel strutted, only it wasn't something that crude or juvenile. Lucas had strutted. Lionel...strode in a way that made it the higher, richer cousin of a swagger.

He really didn't want to know what he looked like when he walked. Images of all the times he'd fallen to someone's feet in an embarrassed heap sprang into mind immediately. No, he really didn't want to know.

"What's this for?"

A hand reached out, brushing against Clark's warm cheeks. Clark sighed a little, a pressed into Lex's hand. "Nothing. I was just thinking."

"About?"

Clark looked at Lex seriously and said, "How people carry themselves."

"Ah." Lex nodded, just as serious. "I thought you were coming back."

The teenager shrugged, immediately feeling guilty, but his eyes slid back to the hand mirror. He lifted it back up until he could see the dragon and the unicorn. Maybe they were a little more representative of them than he'd thought. The dragon was so sleek and supple, its body twisting and sinuous as it curled around the crest. Upon closer examination, Clark had seen that the tail wound around the bottom the shield, and it almost seemed to be about to touch the unicorn.

He could easily imagine the dragon being as graceful and magnificent as Lex. He really couldn't see the resemblance between him and the unicorn, but it pleased him nonetheless that Lex saw one. The equine was as beautiful and majestic as the dragon, in its own way. It didn't have the gorgeous jewel tones of the dragon's scales, but its muscular was an impressive display as it reared back with flashing hooves. Like Lex had said, it was powerful and even a bit intimidating.

"But I see something else captured your attention even more completely than I ever could."

Another guilty start, and he glanced at Lex quickly. The older boy didn't seem angry. Clark watched as Lex walked over to pick up Clark's t-shirt and flannel from the bathroom counter. He said over his shoulder, "Come on, Narcissus. We only have thirty minutes before I have to drive you home."

Clark reluctantly left the mirror, but only after glancing one more time at the beautiful art on his back. His eyes drank in the 'Clark' and 'Lex' over the Luthor shield, and little starbursts of happiness went off in his stomach as he followed Lex out of the bathroom. After setting the hand mirror on a table, he let Lex dress him like a doll when the older boy bossily told him to lift his arms.

Which was how he found himself cuddled up against Lex on an incredibly comfortable couch. They were still in Lex's bedroom; he couldn't seem to get over this, as this was the first time he'd ever been here and he'd spent the entire day within Lex's most private rooms.

He let out a little sigh, too low for anyone to hear, and nuzzled his cheek against the powder blue sweater underneath him. It was unbelievably soft. He probably didn't want to know what it was made out of or how much it cost, but he could privately admit that maybe such outrageous extravagance was worth it. Not necessary, such indulgences could never be labeled that, but it could be acceptable as worth the expensive price tag.

He had to smile against the soft material. Only Lex could wear a pastel color and pull it off as perfectly masculine. Not to mention incredibly sexy.

He remembered the day Lex had stopped by the school to drop off an ad that he'd wanted in The Torch. He'd been wearing a pink dress shirt under his gray suit jacket, which had caused quite a stir. All the girls in school talked during lunch about how unbelievably sexy they thought Lex was for wearing purples and pinks. Even Chloe had indulged in a rare girl-talk moment by ignoring Pete and Clark, instead talking to the other girls at their table. All the guys had had to put up with hearing about how sexy it was that a man could wear pink---how it showed the comfort Lex had in his masculinity and a sensitivity in his nature that they obviously didn't have.

Pink had become the new craze at Smallville High for about a month.

Lex's arm tightened around his back, and his hand stroked Clark's white t-shirt over his shoulder blade. Over his picture.

Clark remembered what Lex had said about New York. He'd been too excited at the time about what it looked like to really concentrate on what Lex had said, but he had time now to appreciate how far Lex went to please him sometimes. "Why did you have to get the inks from New York? Wouldn't something from the art shop in town have worked?"

"No," Lex said, shaking his head. "Or rather, I had something more elaborate in mind. One of my old classmates designed these inks herself, and it was created specifically for application to the skin."

"Why?" Clark lifted his head in curiosity.

"She fell into a phase where she was obsessed with body art. She traveled all over the world, visiting with aboriginal tribes. She spent a year with the Japanese and Burmese, who have done some of the most elaborate tattooing in the world. The Burmese will cover their entire bodies with colorful pictures of plants, animals, and faces. She found it extremely beautiful and moving."

"So it's not weird," Clark said tentatively. "Liking it."

"No," Lex said, squeezing Clark in a tight hug. "The people of southeastern New Guinea consider tattoo marks on females to be signs of beauty. As far back as 1300 B.C., there are signs that the Egyptians practiced tattooing. It's been considered an art among many cultures throughout history."

Clark hugged Lex back.

"It could be an unconscious desire that you don't understand," Lex said softly. "Because of who you are, it could be perfectly natural. Like how men find women wearing high heels to be sexy. It stems from an unconscious recognition that an arched heel is a sign of sexual interest, or at the very least an openness to be pursued by a worthy mate. Only few actually know why their subconscious reacts in such an instinctual way. There are sociologists that have broken down attraction and the flirting process into unconscious impulses grounded in basic instinct."

"Oh." Clark set his head back on Lex's shoulder. Maybe he wasn't so weird. "So what about your friend? Is she in New York now?"

"Yes. She owns an art gallery and is quite a successful artist in her own right. Though she prefers to discover new artists and act as their patron. She's helped several struggling artists reach notoriety in a fairly short time because of her station in society."

Somehow that didn't surprise Clark. Lex seemed to know a lot of successful people. Even Victoria had been successful and powerful, at least until she'd lost Hardwick Enterprises.

"She wanted to experiment with body art, but tattooing isn't something you can just erase and repeat until you get a result you like. So she went back to New York to work with dyes and inks until she developed the end product we used earlier. She's known for her incredible body art, and people pay large sums for one of her works. Because it isn't permanent, she's often in high demand. Especially among the rebellious set, who know that one day they'll take over their family businesses and a certain amount of conservatism will be required then. It's one thing to piss off your parents, but it's another to get disowned."

"So you just called, and she sent them."

"Yes."

Clark couldn't even imagine calling someone in New York, and then having something delivered the next day. He could already hear his dad's opinion on that.

"You know, you're going to have to be careful," Lex said in a low, even voice. "You can't make any mistakes like you did yesterday. No one can see this."

"I didn't mean to---"

"I know," Lex said, leaning down to press a kiss against the top of Clark's head. "I didn't mean to imply that you did anything wrong. But we have to be careful, and you need to make sure no one sees you with your shirt off."

"No one will," Clark said confidently. "The only time I take my shirt off is at home, and I'll be extra careful. I promise."

"What about school?"

Clark shook his head. "I don't have gym class for the rest of the year. Basketball always goes from January to March, and I have to sit out of contact sports."

"Really?" Clark thought he detected a hint of disapproval, but he wasn't sure.

The brunette turned into Lex's sweater, a trace of a pout on his lips. But he was used to sitting out of most gym classes, so he was pretty matter-of-fact about it. "Yeah. I have to go to the locker room and the gym with all the guys, but I just sit off to the side and watch everyone."

"Isn't that boring?" Yup. Definitely disapproval.

He twitched his shoulders. "I guess. I usually bring homework or a book to read."

"Have you always sat out like that?"

Clark nodded.

"Hmmm..."

"My parents didn't want me to accidentally hurt anyone," Clark automatically defended, though there was no heat to his words. He'd never understood it either. "Or to have any accidents with the equipment. I popped a basketball when I was six. So they sent a note to the school saying I couldn't participate in sports or gym."

"I thought it was required."

"I...I'm not sure what they said," Clark admitted. "I was pretty young. I was just upset that I couldn't play on the playground anymore unless it was hopscotch with the girls. The teachers wouldn't even let me play on the swings or monkey bars."

"Hmmm..." Lex hummed another one of those non-committal sounds.

Clark just let out an internal sigh, silently agreeing, and tightened his own arms around Lex's waist.

"What about this spring?"

It took a moment for Clark to figure out what Lex was asking. "Oh. Um, I'm pretty much out of gym like I said. It's tennis and softball for the last two months of school. And this year is the last year for gym. I'll just have about two weeks when we do physical fitness. That just means sit-ups, push-ups, the sit-and-reach, and running a mile. Everyone hates it."

"Softball? Not baseball?"

Clark thought that was a weird question, then remembered that Lex went to boarding schools almost his entire life. Even Excelsior, an exclusive prep school, had been some fancy private school that boarded most of its students. He'd asked Chloe look it up, appealing to her curiosity about the new principal.

"Gym is co-ed," Clark explained. "At least on most days. We have separate locker rooms of course, but then we meet together in the gym or outside. We occasionally separate. The girls play volleyball in the fall, and the guys play football."

"You don't ever switch?" A hint of curiosity was growing in Lex's voice.

"No, not really," Clark said slowly. "If it's raining, the guys come in and play volleyball. But otherwise it's separate."

"And this is acceptable?"

"Well," the word was drawn out as Clark thought. "I guess no one really thinks about it. I never did. It's just the way it is. Besides, Chloe told me she doesn't like throwing a football."

"I suppose if the girls aren't allowed to play, they can't do it very well," Lex mused. "I can see why they might not want to do something they're clearly inferior in due to lack of training."

Uh. Okay.

Lex went on, his tone of voice indicating that he was thinking out loud. "You realize it's slightly disturbing. This gender conditioning that goes on in public schools right beneath the public's eyes. Yet no one says a word."

"So...you'd want your girls to play football?" Clark asked, unsure what Lex was saying.

Lex sent Clark a withering glare. "I don't even like football," he said imperiously. "But my future children, whether they're males or females, will play whatever they want and do whatever they want. Regardless what society deems appropriate for their assigned gender roles."

Green eyes blinked. "Um. Okay. That's...good."

Lex didn't like football?

"Wait a second," Clark said, sitting up a little and staring at Lex. "I thought you liked football. You talk about the Sharks all the time, and you even invited me over to watch the NFL last season. We watched the Superbowl together."

A hand brushed the bangs off Clark's forehead, and Lex looked at the younger boy in bemused fondness. Leaning over, he kissed the tip of Clark's nose. "I liked you," he said in a voice that had threads of laughter running through it. "If you'd liked mud wrestling or monster truck rallies, I'd have stomached it somehow and taken you to see both. As well as become an expert so I could talk to you about them."

"You don't have to pretend to like what I like," Clark protested, even as he felt a warm glow inside. Lex Luthor, the Lex Luthor, had pretended to like football just for him. He thought back on all the games they'd watched, not to mention all the Crows games Lex had come to. He didn't even always sit near Clark, but Clark noticed Lex's presence every time.

"Like you didn't pretend to love coffee when Lana started working at the Beanery?" Lex pointed out. "Or became a regular patron at the Talon when we opened up business?"

Clark felt his face going red. He tried to protest, "But that's different."

"If you say you like coffee, I'm going to hit you."

Clark pouted at Lex, unaware of what he was doing or the reaction it was causing. Lex's eyes flickered down to Clark's mouth as the boy denied hotly, "I like Mochas. Especially those iced slushy Mocha-things that the Talon makes."

Blue eyes pinned to a tempting lower lip, Lex corrected distractedly, "Not until I informed the staff that they'd start adding extra milk and chocolate to your Mochas, plus a touch of caramel."

The brunette blinked, thinking this over. "You did?"

"Clark," Lex said patiently. "I realize the Beanery's coffee was something less than desirable. But I did notice that you never drank anything you ordered, other than the obligatory sip or two. Nor do you drink coffee at home, and you never drink it here. And I'd have to be dead not to notice your sweet tooth"

"Oh."

"You guzzle pop like it's going to run out tomorrow," Lex said, a slight frown on his face. His eyes finally moved up, looking at Clark critically. "You do realize just how much sugar and other crap is in that stuff, don't you? I should probably make some in my lab and force you to watch."

Clark rolled his eyes, but he scooted back down and nestled against Lex's side. He'd decided he liked the cuddling. He'd always thought he'd would. He used to watch Whitney and Lana on her porch, and he'd wanted it so bad he could practically taste it.

It was better with Lex.

"I do drink other things," Clark retorted. "I drink at least one glass of milk with every meal, usually two. Plus, I drink water. Don't I always take a bottle of that fancy stuff you drink every time you offer?"

"Excuse me," Lex said sardonically. "I stand corrected. How very wholesome of you."

Clark thumped Lex's stomach lightly. "It is."

The older boy started stroking Clark's back, causing Clark to snuggle in even more to show his approval. Lex, master of human behavior that he was, kept stroking Clark's back.

After a while, Clark asked languidly, "You noticed that I don't drink a lot of coffee?"

Lex snorted. "I notice everything about you," he said in a self-reproachful voice. "I couldn't help but notice the travesty being committed as the few times that you ordered actual coffee you dumped enough sugar in it to make the spoon stand."

"I did not!"

"Barely," Lex retorted.

Clark was silent for a minute before asking casually, "What else did you notice?"

"Clark," Lex asked teasingly, "are you fishing for compliments?"

"No! I just wanted to see if you're exaggerating or not."

"You desperately want to join the football team," Lex said musingly, "but you'd have to be completely comatose not to realize that. You don't like peas, but you love green beans. You devour cookies and cake like a locust, and savor pie like every bite is your last. Ironically enough, cherry is your favorite, though apple is a close second. You wear an ungodly amount of flannel, another obvious habit, but you never wear gloves or a hat no matter how cold it is."

He didn't like the way hats flattened his hair. There was nothing wrong with that.

Lex noticed that he liked green beans?

And so what if he liked cherry pie? Who didn't?

"You always come over for dinner when your mom makes pork chops. You loved Mrs. Palmer's macaroni and cheese, but you love Dean's beef stroganoff even more. Your favorite color is red, followed closely by blue. You don't like to write papers, but you like the finished product after you're done. You're fascinated by astronomy, even if your telescope is always pointed at the Potter house. Specifically Lana's bedroom window."

"Hey!"

"I was rather impressed by your voyeurism," Lex said with a wicked smirk. He continued on, "You're fascinated by Chloe's hair. I'm not sure why, but you like to stare at it. You love basketball, even if you're fixated on football for some reason. Math is your favorite subject, even if it's the one you complain the most about. You always pause in the entryway to look at the floral arrangement, both coming and going, and you always lean in to sniff at the flowers---"

"They smell nice!"

"---and your favorite are the roses. Which tells me you're either a traditionalist or a romantic. I suspect both. Especially considering that you secretly like the chick flicks Chloe makes you and Pete go to."

"I do not." Clark frowned as he realized he didn't even sound convincing to himself.

"I could probably go on like this for hours," Lex said blithely, "but I think I proved myself enough for you. Didn't I?"

"Ummm...yeah..."

Just how closely did Lex watch him, and where was he that he didn't notice? Of course, he'd watched Lex, too. But that was usually from the castle grounds. He couldn't even say why he did it. He just needed to. He'd never admit this to his dad or mom, but one reason he'd refined his x-ray vision so much this year was because of Lex.

After Desiree, he'd started watching Lex. At first to make sure that Lex was all right since Lex would never admit to not being okay. Also, it had been too close, with his dad and Desiree almost killing Lex. Only...then he couldn't stop.

He was also pretty sure that the practice with X-ray made his heat vision easier to control, so he kind of had Lex to thank for that, too. Not that he was going to admit that he liked to just watch Lex, as if it were some kind of spectator sport.

Did he notice those types of things about Lex?

"We need to get going," Lex said softly, tightening his arm for a moment around Clark's back before letting go. "Your father won't be pleased if I bring you back late."

"I could run," Clark immediately offered. "Then I don't have to leave yet."

"No," Lex said, shaking his head and starting to get up. "Never let it be said that a Luthor doesn't drive his date to the door."

"Date?" Clark asked as he stood up.

"Date," Lex said a smile, leaning in to kiss Clark.

Clark shut his eyes, leaning right back. He opened his mouth, and something hot slithered down his spine when Lex slipped his tongue in. God, Lex was good at that. He let out a little whimper when a leg slipped between his thighs. He didn't even have time to get embarrassed because Lex just pressed, and then he was pushing into Lex desperately. He rubbed his hips into Lex's thigh, wanting to just get closer and closer.

"Noooo," he moaned, as Lex withdrew tongue and lips, followed just as quickly by his body.

"We don't have time to wash your clothes again," he said mercilessly. Clark looked at Lex with sad eyes, but Lex just continued on, "I refuse to bring you home with a mess in your shorts. You'll live."

"But it felt so good," Clark complained, moving in to wrap his arms around Lex.

Lex slipped away, picking up Clark's flannel shirt on a neighboring armchair. He handed it to Clark and went to his dresser to pick up his wallet. "Like I said, you'll live. Come on, we need to get going."

Clark sighed, but seeing Lex already making his way to the door without a backward glance, he used a touch of speed to slip on his shirt and catch up. Lex didn't even pause to find Clark suddenly at his heels, and he continued making his way out of his suite.

The teenager raised his hand, touching his pocket. The crinkle of paper let him know he hadn't lost the money Lex gave him. He was tempted to peek---he had been all afternoon---but he'd promised not to. He said sincerely, "Thanks again, Lex. For helping me with Chloe, and then practicing with me. I would have messed it up otherwise."

"You'll do fine," Lex assured him. "Just speak from your heart, and hit on the points we practiced. She wants you to be her friend, and she wants you to choose her over Lana because you're friends. She's just feeling insecure and hurt right now."

"And rejected," Clark said glumly. "Don't forget rejected."

"Yes," Lex said with a wave of his hand. "But you'll make it clear you love her as if she were your sister. It'll sting a little, but she'll accept it. And we'll find someone else to occupy her time."

"We will?" Lex hadn't said anything about that. Clark sped up a little to walk beside Lex.

"We will," Lex said firmly. "She wants a little romance. A little affection. If you still had a thing for Lana, and Chloe wasn't fifteen and the daughter of my plant manager, I'd offer myself as a distraction."

"You will not!" Clark looked at Lex, horrified.

"She's really quite beautiful," Lex said musingly. "As well as intelligent, extremely clever, and ruthlessly ambitious. Yet she also tempers that with good judgment and a generous heart. I've never understood why you preferred Lana over Chloe."

"You don't like Chloe, do you?"

"Don't be ridiculous," Lex drawled. "I like her well enough, but you're the one I want. I just appreciate her finer qualities. You probably haven't even noticed that she's incredibly discreet, not to mention loyal."

"She is?" Of course she is. Clark frowned at himself.

"I know Gabe talks about work at home, but she's never once mentioned it to me." Lex didn't even pause as he turned into the corridor leading the garage. Clark couldn't help wondering how Lex knew that, but he wasn't about to get Lex off on a tangent. "She also didn't say a word during her internship at The Daily Planet about what she knew about LexCorp's conception or that she knew me personally, and she would have made powerful contacts with the paper if she'd done either. I'd assumed at the time that it was out of loyalty to you or her father that kept her quiet."

"Oh." Clark's shoulders slumped. Maybe he could tell Chloe about his secret. But he was still afraid she'd get super angry. Though, Pete had seemed to have been angrier because they'd been friends since they were practically toddlers than anything else. So maybe Chloe wouldn't get that upset since they'd only known each other a few years.

He felt a waves of shame as he remembered how he'd treated Chloe when he'd found out she'd been investigating his adoption. How many times had she investigated something and told him about what she'd found out? Didn't that mean she cared just as much about the people being hurt as the story she was uncovering? She knew he was only on the paper because of her, so it wasn't to pique his non-existent journalistic curiosity.

And The Wall of Weird. Had she ever done anything to harm the people she discovered or suspected were mutants? What if she'd done exactly as she'd said? That she'd investigated the adoption for him, and she'd been concerned that there was something illegal about it?

He remembered his research for that paper on adoption, which had started because he'd been doing a report on a book about a baby that was kidnapped and raised by people who'd bought her on the black market. What if that was what Chloe thought? What if that was what she still thought? If it was, that meant she'd kept quiet about the Kents either stealing a baby or adopting a baby illegally because he'd asked. Would he have done the same thing if he'd found out Mr. Sullivan had stolen Chloe? And if he'd actually been stolen at a young age, wouldn't he have been glad to know he still had parents out there who wanted him? Instead of being some throw-away orphan?

Did his real parents, the ones from his planet, still want him? What if they'd had enemies, and they'd been the ones to send Clark away? Maybe his parents were missing him, wondering every day whether he was alive or dead.

It didn't matter. None of it mattered. He'd never know, so there was no point wondering. He'd find a way to make it up to Chloe for how he'd snapped at her and accused her of being a bad friend. Besides, after tomorrow they would be friends again.

He reached out, grateful and pleased when Lex didn't say a word as Clark held his hand. When they got to the garage, he'd show Lex just how much it meant to him that the older boy was giving them a chance. That he'd told Clark that he loved him.

The connection hummed between them, a sense of destiny strong in the air. He could feel the ink on his back like a living thing. He smiled.

END


NOTE II: Clark not believing or understanding the importance of condoms and safe sex wasn't meant to show him as stupid or naive. It's pretty clear to the audience that adults don't talk about condoms because they want to discourage "barebacking". (And if someone out there doesn't know this, it's not. Condoms are definitely a safety must. STDs aren't something to kid around about.) It sounds unbelievable, but I knew a girl who had unprotected sex during her teens. As a college student, she told me she thought she couldn't get pregnant "because she hadn't yet". I'm sure I stared at her in horror and disbelief that anyone could actually think that way. So Clark's misconceptions about condoms---and even the fact that he didn't think of condoms in relation to sex and how he could have sex with a modicum of safety---is a reflection on a very real segment of today's youth in America. It is in no way meant to be a promotion for not using condoms, nor is this note an advocacy to use condoms.